How Do Skin Grafts Work?

Skin GraftsA skin graft is a surgical procedure in which a doctor removes part of your skin from one area of your body and places it on another part of your body. This is typically necessary when the injuries you sustained are so severe that your body may not be able to heal itself quickly, or where the risk of substantial scarring is great.

Are there different types of skin grafting procedures?

Depending on the type of injury, the extent of skin damage, and the unique needs that you have, your doctor may recommend that you undergo a specific skin grafting procedure over another. There are three common types of skin grafting surgeries that most doctors perform, which includes:

  1. Composite graft: A composite graft involves moving the skin, tissues, and cartilage to certain areas, such as the ears, nose, and tips of your fingers. Doing a graft in these areas can be very difficult and complex, which requires the support and coverage of a composite graft.
  2. Full-thickness graft (FTSG): A full-thickness graft consists of a doctor removing the top layer and the entire second layer of your skin and then moving it to another area, which is usually where you do not cover with clothes. For example, the doctor may recommend a full-thickness graft on your face since you do not put clothing over any part of your facial area. The type of skin that is removed during a full-thickness graft usually comes from your arms, collarbones, or groin, and it is very thick. As a result, it can take the longest to heal.
  3. Split-thickness skin graft (STSG): When undergoing a split-thickness graft surgery, your doctor will remove the top layer and part of the second layer of your skin. This type of skin grafting surgery is usually recommended for those who need large areas covered by new skin, which is taken from your stomach, back, buttocks, or thighs.

How does skin grafting surgery work?

In general, patients who undergo skin grafting surgery typically go through a series of steps from beginning to end. The following are the steps that you may go through during a skin grafting procedure, per the Cleveland Clinic:

  • You will meet with your doctor and determine the location where your skin will be removed as well as where it will be moved to. Your doctor will be assessing various areas to see which ones match your skin textures and tones.
  • After your doctor makes a decision about where to remove your skin, you will prepare for your surgery date, which will take place in a hospital.
  • On the day of your procedure, you will go to the hospital. The anesthesiologist will likely give you general anesthesia to put you to sleep. However, if your skin graft procedure is short and minor, the doctor may only require local anesthesia and numbing. Once you are asleep and ready, the doctor will start your surgery.
  • They will begin making cuts to remove the healthy and thriving skin from the area in which you and the doctor agreed on. Depending on which type of skin grafting procedure you are having done, this could be the arms, thighs, stomach, buttocks, back, or groin.
  • The doctor will make tiny holes in the removed skin, which is referred to as meshing. By doing this, the doctor can stretch your skin over a much bigger area.
  • The doctor will then place the skin over the area where your skin is damaged or completely gone. After the skin is fully covering the entire area, they will use staples or stitches to ensure that it is in position and unable to move.

You can expect to be admitted into the hospital and spend up to a couple weeks there getting the individualized and routine assistance that you need. During this time, your doctor will also help you learn how to manage your pain and properly clean your skin graft location.

What are the risks associated with skin grafts?

As with any type of procedure, there are risks associated with skin grafts. Those risks include:

  • Failure of the graft;
  • Scarring;
  • Discoloration;
  • Contracture of joints (leading to mobility issues);
  • Infections (fever, swelling, pus, and/or redness at the wound site); and
  • Chronic pain/discomfort.

If you suffer a catastrophic injury that caused you to need a skin graft procedure, the Los Angeles personal injury attorneys at McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP are ready and available to help you. Our team is experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable when it comes to various types of injuries, accidents, and skin grafting surgeries. Therefore, if you need a lawyer who will remain by your side and assist you with obtaining maximum compensation to cover your injuries, lost income, and medical costs, please call our office or complete our contact form today. We provide free and remote consultations, which means that you never have to leave the comfort of your home to discuss your legal case or get the help that you need from our lawyers.

Please note that this blog is not to be construed as legal advice. Because every case is fact-specific, you should consult directly with an attorney to obtain legal advice specific to your situation.