A skin graft is used to permanently replace damaged or missing skin or to provide a temporary wound covering. This covering is necessary because the skin protects the body from fluid loss, aids in temperature regulation, and helps prevent disease-causing bacteria or viruses from entering the body. Skin that is damaged extensively by burns or non-healing wounds can compromise the health and well-being of the patient.
Injuries treated with skin grafts:
Skin grafting is sometimes done as part of elective plastic surgery procedures, but its most extensive use is in the treatment of burns. For first or second-degree burns, skin grafting is generally not required, as these burns usually heal with little or no scarring. With third-degree burns, however, the skin is destroyed to its full depth, in addition to the damage done to underlying tissues. People who suffer third-degree burns often require skin grafting.
Wounds such as third-degree burns must be covered as quickly as possible to prevent infection or loss of fluid. Wounds that are left to heal on their own can contract, often resulting in serious scarring; if the wound is large enough, the scar can actually prevent movement of limbs. Non-healing wounds, such as diabetic ulcers, venous ulcers, or pressure sores, can be treated with skin grafts to prevent infection and further progression of the wounded area.
Types of Skin Grafts:
Split-level thickness grafts:
These grafts comprise two layers of the skin, the epidermis, and dermis. These layers are taken from the area where the skin is healthy.
These grafts comprise the muscles and the blood vessels in addition to the top of the two layers of the skin from the donor site. It is used for small wounds on highly visible parts of the body such as the face. It blends well with the surrounding skin and usually grows with the other skin.
These grafts comprise skin and underlying cartilage or other tissue. It is used to reconstruct nasal rim defects.