What's It Like: To have a skin graft?

Grafts are used on wounds that aren't healing properly. Burn victims and diabetics are among the most common recipients of skin grafts.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: October 28, 2012

If you receive donated skin or a secondary skin product, you will likely feel some soreness around the wound.

What are the risk factors?

With small skin grafts, there's a low risk that the graft won't hold and that you'll have to receive more skin grafts. Also, about one in 100 patients that receive a skin graft using secondary skin products experience an allergic reaction.

With larger skin grafts, there's a risk that your wound won't get covered quickly enough and is at risk of becoming infected.

With any surgery, there's a risk associated with anesthesia and also a risk of bleeding infection. Risks specific to skin grafts include lost sensation in the skin, increased sensitivity, scarring, skin discoloration and uneven skin surface. Chronic pain is another risk factor, but it's rare.

What's the recovery time?

Your recovery time will depend on the size, depth and complexity of your skin graft.

People who require small grafts will likely go home the same day and heal fairly quickly. If your graft required a hospital stay, you will likely go home within a day or two if it wasn't a large graft. Patients with larger and thicker grafts might be in the hospital one to two weeks.

For patients with extensive damage, it can take about three to four weeks to heal. Also, patients with poor blood flow and patients who smoke will not heal as quickly.

What's the follow-up?

Generally, skin graft patients go back after about a week, sometimes to get their bandages replaced. Your doctor will want to see you periodically after the procedure to ensure that the graft is holding and that you won't require further procedures. It's important to be open and honest with your doctor at every step of the way to better ensure a positive outcome.

Source: Dr. William Truels, medical director of the Deaconess Wound Care Center; American Diabetes Association

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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