Treatments & Therapies

Skin Transplantation – Treatment, Effect & Risks

Skin graft

skin graft is used for burns , burns , or ulcers to cover damaged skin . The skin used comes from the same patient. It is usually taken from the thigh , stomach or back . The aim is to treat wounds that, due to their size, cannot heal with conservative measures.

What is skin grafting?

Skin grafting is the most commonly used procedure in plastic surgery. In order for the wound to be treated in this way, it must be free of all bacteria and other pathogens, and areas of skin suitable for transplantation should be available . Healthy tissue is a prerequisite.

Numerous operations have shown that the result is most aesthetically pleasing when the transplanted skin is as close as possible to the actual injury. If operations and other medication can no longer heal the wound, a skin transplant must be carried out within a short time window. In this way, the development of infections can be prevented.

Normally, the body is able to heal any damage to the skin on its own. However, once the wound has reached a certain size, it is a process that takes a long time and is susceptible to bacteria. The skin itself is an important part of the human body. On the one hand, it is the largest organ and, on the other hand, it protects the organism from heat, dirt and pressure.

Function, effect & goals

There are different methods for transplantation of skin areas. Full skin transplants and split skin transplants are used particularly frequently. Both are initially based on donor tissue from the same person who has a large-scale injury. If this person does not have any healthy skin areas, cells from other people can also be transplanted. 

In such a case, foreign skin grafts are involved. At the latest when 70 percent of the skin surface is damaged, it is no longer possible to remove your own skin areas. The skin has several layers: the upper skin ( epidermis ), leather skin (dermis) and subcutaneous tissue (subcutis). In a full skin transplant, doctors remove the epidermis and dermis. The skin appendages remain intact. These are, for example, hair follicles and sweat glands . Compared to split skin transplantation, areas are removed that are relatively thick.

After removing the tissue, the wound must be closed. In most cases, a suture is used for this purpose. The healing of the donor area often results in scarring. After the first removal, it is not suitable for any further skin transplantation. Full skin grafts are particularly used for wounds that are small and deep. The result is perceived as better than that of a split-thickness skin graft, both aesthetically and functionally. The split skin graft is limited to the epidermis and the upper dermis. Their thickness is approximately 0.25 to 0.5 millimeters. In the case of a split-thickness skin transplant, the area where the tissue was removed usually heals within 2 to 3 weeks. At the same time, the same area can be used for several operations, no scar develops in the further healing process .

While full-thickness skin grafting is only suitable for wounds that are free of bacteria and have a good blood supply, the existence of such prerequisites for a split-thickness skin graft is not obligatory. Another method is to grow your own skin. Some cells are taken from the patient. On this basis, a flap of skin can be grown in a laboratory. Such a procedure takes about 2 to 3 weeks and can therefore not be used in acute accidents that require quick action.

During the operation itself, the healthy area of ​​skin is fixed with staples, sutures or fibrin glue. In order for the wound secretion to drain, the tissue has to be cut through in a few places. The operation is completed with the application of a compression bandage and immobilization. This is particularly important to allow the skin to heal properly.

Risks, side effects & dangers

Transplants that come from the recipient do not have a risk of rejection. However, there are some risks that need to be considered. After an operation, bacteria or other pathogens can accumulate in the area of ​​the freshly stitched area and cause an infection. Infections can occur in autologous skin transplants as well as in foreign skin transplants. 

Bleeding during or after the operation can not be ruled out. In addition, healing disorders or delayed growth can occur. These usually develop when the wound was not adequately supplied with blood during the operation. If the doctor treating you has not optimally applied or sewn up the transplant, this can result in further growth delays because the contact between the skin and the transplant may be broken. After the healing is complete, the occurrence of numbness in the transplanted area cannot be ruled out.

If a large-area transplantation has been carried out, the patient may be restricted in his movement due to the scarring. Furthermore, the absence of hair growth can be observed in some cases. How high the individual risk is ultimately depends on several factors. These include, above all, the patient’s age as well as all comorbidities and conditions which cause more or less good wound healing . Accordingly, the risk is particularly increased in people over 60 years of age and young children. Further caution applies to diabetics, immune disorders, anemia and chronic infections.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.