Several of my clients who have suffered major burns from a work accident end up undergoing a skin grafting procedure to close a wound or to replace dead or damaged skin with new, healthy tissue. Facing a skin grafting procedure can be scary so I wanted to give some basic information on the different types of skin grafts. Hopefully, once you have looked over this information, you will have some additional knowledge of how it works and you can discuss this with your doctor.
What Is a Skin Graft?
A skin graft is a surgical procedure that involves removing skin from one part of your body (the donor site) and moving it to a different part. This surgery may be done if part of your body has lost its protective covering of skin due to injury or illness.
Skin grafts are performed in a hospital. Most skin grafts are performed using general anesthesia, which means that you will sleep painlessly throughout the procedure.
Reasons for Skin Grafts
A skin graft is placed over an area of the body where the skin has been lost. Some common reasons for skin grafts include:
- skin infections
- deep burns
- large, open wounds
- bed sores or other ulcers on the skin that don’t heal well
Types of Skin Grafts
There are two basic types of skin grafts: split-level thickness and full thickness.
Split-Level Thickness Grafts
A split-level thickness graft involves removing only the top two levels of the skin—the epidermis and the dermis—from the donor site. These grafts are used to cover large areas. Split-level grafts tend to be fragile and have a shiny or smooth appearance. They may also appear paler than the adjoining skin. Because they do not grow with the rest of the skin, a child who receives a split-level graft may need additional grafts as he or she gets older.
A full thickness graft involves removing the muscles and blood vessels as well as the top layers of skin from the donor site. Full-thickness grafts are generally used for small wounds on a highly visible part of the body, such as the face. Unlike split-level thickness grafts, they blend in well with the skin around them and usually grow with the individual.
Skin Graft Preparation
Most doctors schedule skin grafts several weeks in advance so that you have time to plan for the surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medications, such as aspirin, that interfere with the blood’s ability to form clots.
You should minimize stair climbing immediately after the surgery and plan to have someone to stay with you to help take care of you during your first few days at home.
Your doctor will tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of the surgery.
If you have suffered a severe work injury 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.