The full thickness skin graft explained

There’s a lot of media interest nowadays in cosmetic surgery and its ability to enhance or augment our looks. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s easy to forget why the discipline came into being in the first place: to help people who have been disfigured.

One of the most important tools in our armoury is the full thickness skin graft. Essentially, it’s a procedure that involves healthy skin being harvested from one area of the body, which is then used to restructure lost or damaged skin – be it an open wound, a badly burned area, or skin removed due to surgery or various major ailments.

What a full thickness skin graft does

There are two main types of skin graft: a split thickness graft (which involves the shaving of a thin sheet of skin a fraction of a millimetre thick, usually from the thigh, buttock or upper arm), and a full thickness graft, which is usually between 2 and 4 millimetres thick. The full thickness graft is best used for smaller, deeper wounds on the head, face, neck and hands –such as those left by the removal of skin cancers, moles, surgical wounds, ulcers and burns wounds.

Where is the full thickness skin graft taken from?

A full thickness graft will be sourced from a part of the body where skin can be removed without scarring, which also matches the intended area. For example, if the injured part of the body usually contains hair follicles, the graft area will contain follicles too. Areas considered most suitable for a full thickness skin graft include – but are not limited to – the front and back of the ear, upper eyelid, scalp, above the collarbone, the upper and inner arm, or the groin. Grafts can be held in place with stitches, or medical-grade glue, or dressings.

How quickly would I recover?

It depends. It’s vital that the graft is kept in place during the first week, so the ‘new’ skin can connect with the blood supply and mesh with its new surroundings. And you’ll be required to take precautions to aid this process, such as not bathing the area for at least a week, or avoiding stress to the treated area.

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