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Skin Graft

Definition

A skin graft is a patch of skin that is surgically removed from one part of the body and transplanted to another.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

Skin is a protective barrier against infection and injury. When it becomes damaged and is no longer functional, a skin graft can be used to replace it.
One of the most common uses of skin grafts is to replace badly burned tissue. Skin that has been destroyed due to trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident, can also be replaced with skin grafts.
Skin grafts may be also used in reconstructing the nose or breast after an injury or for cosmetic reasons.

How is the procedure performed?

Skin grafting is done by a surgeon in an operating room. Once the donor site is selected, the surgeon removes a portion of skin big enough to fit the area to which it is to be transplanted. This tissue or graft is removed and attached to the area in one procedure.
Sometimes the skin to be used as a graft can be stretched or grown over a period of time with special instruments inserted by the surgeon. In these cases, once the skin has reached the proper size it is cut and transferred to the recipient site. The site to receive the graft must be clean and free from bleeding.
If the area is dirty or infected, the surgeon has to scrub it to remove any dead tissue or foreign material. Once the area is properly prepared the surgeon can attach the skin graft with sutures.
Once the graft is in place it must be kept clean. The bleeding must be controlled and there should not be any movement between the graft and its "bed." Sometimes the surgeon will make small holes in the graft to allow fluid to escape so that it does not accumulate and disrupt the graft from the bed.

Sources

Phipps WJ, et al: Medical surgical nursing: concepts and clinical practice. Ch 73 p 2145-49. Ed 4, St. Louis, 1991, Mosby.

Sabiston DC, Lyerly HK, et al: Textbook of surgery: the biological basis of modern surgical practice. Ch 12 p 497-9. Ed 15, Philadelphia, 1997, WB Saunders Company.

Thompson JM, McFarland GK, Hirsch JE, et al: Mosby's clinical nursing. Ch 5 p 530-1. Ed 4, St Louis, 1997, Mosby.

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