Skin grafting entails the removal and relocation of a portion of a patient’s skin from one area to another by a surgeon to aid healing or provide coverage. The donor site can vary, depending on whether it's a split-thickness or full-thickness graft. The former tends to involve skin from the thigh or buttocks, while the latter is taken from the abdomen or back.
Skin grafting is performed to help heal and/or cover a wound or scar. There are several things patients should and shouldn’t do beforehand to prepare for such a procedure.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE REASONS PEOPLE UNDERGO SKIN GRAFT SURGERY?
Severe burn victims commonly receive skin grafts as a way to camouflage their scars. There are even some instances in which a burn, typically third-degree, causes so much damage to the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis that a skin graft is necessary for the wound to completely heal.
Skin grafting is also utilized to assist patients undergoing reconstruction surgery following cancer, including but not limited to breast, nose, and/or skin cancer.
According to a March 2003 study shared by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM): “When used appropriately, the full-thickness skin graft (FTSG) makes for a simple and aesthetically acceptable reconstruction option for nasal defects.”
Another reason people may receive a skin graft procedure include treatment for other non-healing wounds (i.e., ulcers). In fact, a 2017 study also shared by the NLM specifically examining the effectiveness of autologous split-thickness skin grafts found that this particular procedure “still remains the gold standard in terms of safety and efficacy for chronic leg ulcers.”
"Skin grafting procedures have greater success rates in chronic venous leg ulcers compared to other types of chronic leg ulcers; skin tissue engineering, also supported by genetic manipulation, is quickly expanding and, in the near future, may provide even better outcomes in the area of treatments for long-lasting chronic wounds,” it continues.
WHAT ARE THE STANDARD DOS AND DON’TS BEFORE UNDERGOING A SKIN GRAFT PROCEDURE?
Anyone planning on undergoing a skin graft procedure should discuss preparation instructions with his or her surgeon beforehand to help ensure the surgery goes smoothly, but there are also some general tips to always keep in mind.
This includes receiving hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) before and after surgery, as it can help prepare the donor site for transplant and ensure it’s healthy and strong enough to endure any surgery-associated damage. It also accelerates the healing process after the fact, in both surgical sites—donor and recipient. Approved by the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration, which means it’s covered by certain insurance plans, HBOT exposes patients to increased amounts of pure oxygen—a vital nutrient with the ability to preserve and enhance cellular function, and restore body tissue affected by trauma caused during a skin graft procedure, as well as other injuries.
There are additional tips to follow, as well. Do not smoke prior to the surgery. Doing so could affect blood flow in the body, and thus, negatively impact the recovery process. Also refrain from taking certain medications/prescriptions, and vitamins and other supplements, since they may cause excessive bleeding. Be sure to consult with a medical professional beforehand to learn more about specific drugs that are most concerning.
Making sure your skin is clean before undergoing surgery is another key suggestion. It should be free of any skin care products or perfumes.
Lastly, avoid drinking or eating before the procedure. It’s best to speak about specific time frames with the surgeon, as they can vary, too.