I have provided the information below for any injured worker who may be facing a skin grafting procedure. As always, folks, this information is for education purposes only and is NEVER to be taken as medical opinion. Always consult your doctor before making any decisions.

Skin Graft Procedure

You will arrive at the hospital on the morning of the surgery. A nurse or a technician will help you get ready for the operation by giving you a hospital gown to wear in place of street clothes and starting an IV in your hand, arm, or wrist. The IV allows your doctors to give you medicine and fluids during and after the surgery.

When it is time for your operation, you will be taken into the operating room. Once you are in the operating room, a doctor will inject a medicine into your IV line. The medicine, called general anesthetic, will make you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the surgery so that you don’t feel any pain.

The surgeon will begin the operation by removing skin from the donor site. If you are getting a split-level thickness graft, the skin will be removed from an area of your body that is usually hidden by clothes, such as your hip or the inside of your thigh. If you are getting a full-thickness graft, the preferred donor sites are the abdominal wall or the chest wall.

Once the skin is removed from the donor site, the surgeon carefully places it over the transplant area and fixes it in place with a surgical dressing, staples, or stitches. He or she will also cover the donor area with a dressing that won’t stick to the wound.

Aftercare for a Skin Graft

You will wake up in the recovery room. The staff will watch you closely after surgery, monitoring your vital signs and giving you medications to manage pain. When the staff is sure you are stable, you will be taken to a hospital room to continue your recovery.

If you have had a split-level thickness graft, your doctor will probably want you to stay in the hospital for a few days to make sure that both the graft and the donor site are healing well. The graft should start developing blood vessels to connect it with the skin around it within 36 hours. If these blood vessels do not begin to form, it could be a sign that your body is rejecting the graft. You may hear doctors say that the graft “hasn’t taken.” If the graft doesn’t take, you may require another operation and a new graft.

A full-thickness graft usually requires a hospitalization of about one to two weeks. You may also require rehabilitation, such as physical or occupational therapy, as you heal.

Your doctor will probably discharge you with a prescription for painkillers and instructions about how to care for the graft site and the donor site to avoid infection.

Avoid activities that stretch or pull the graft site for at least three to four weeks. The donor site will heal within two to three weeks. Your doctor will tell you when it is safe to resume your normal activities.

If you have suffered a severe work injury including burn injuries or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia,” or call our office today (804) 755-7755.


Michele Lewane, Esq.