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Full-thickness Skin Grafting
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
- Full-thickness skin grafting (FTSG) is surgery to treat non-healing wounds or burns, and repair damaged skin or scars. FTSG uses the dermis and epidermis (skin layers) taken from one area of the body and transplanted to another area. It is most commonly used to repair small facial skin defects resulting from removal of skin cancers. The area where the normal skin will be taken is called the donor site. Your caregiver may take the donor skin from the upper eyelid, or between the nose and lips. Skin around the ears, neck, above the collar bone, or even wrist and groin skin may also be used. The color, texture, and thickness of the donor site should match with those of the site being repaired. If the damage is severe (bad), your caregiver may even use the cartilage or ligaments under the donor skin.
- During surgery, a wound pattern is made with a gauze pad and traced over the skin of the donor site. The graft is taken from the donor site with a surgical knife. It is trimmed to the exact size and shape so it will perfectly fit the wound site. Both donor and wound sites are closed with sutures (threads) and covered with bandages and surgical dressings. These may help prevent bleeding and hematomas (swelling with blood). Repairing your wound or damaged skin using FTSG may help it to heal, and improve its appearance.
Take your medicine as directed:
Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
- Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your primary healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
- Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
- Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
- Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
- Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:
For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.
Ask your caregiver when you should return to have your wound checked or stitches removed.
Rest when you need to while you heal after surgery.
Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.
The graft and donor sites must remain free from germs, such as bacteria and viruses, in order for healing to happen. Certain factors may cause graft failure and delay wound healing. Do the following to help your wounds heal:
- Avoid smoking cigars, pipes, and cigarettes. Smoking may affect the formation of new blood vessels on the graft and wound site.
- Certain medicines, such as steroids and blood thinners, may delay wound healing. Ask your caregiver for more information about medicines that may delay wound healing.
- Do not let your wounds get wet. Always keep your wounds clean and dry. When you are allowed to bathe or shower, carefully wash the graft and donor sites with soap and water. Afterwards, put on clean, new bandages. Change your bandages every time they get wet or dirty. Ask your caregiver for more information about wound care.
- If you have certain diseases, such as diabetes (high blood sugar), take your medicines regularly and carefully control your blood sugars. People with diabetes may have poor wound healing. Ask your caregiver for help in managing your diabetes.
- Limit movements, such as stretching, to prevent bleeding, shearing, and swelling in the wound and grafted sites.
- Protect the graft site from direct sunlight for at least six months to avoid burning the skin. If it appears dry and scaly, keep it moist by applying lotion to it. Ask your caregiver for the type of lotion you may need to use on your skin.
- Taking vitamins and eating healthy foods high in protein may improve wound healing. Poultry, meat, and dairy products such as eggs and cheese are high in protein. Ask your caregiver if you should use vitamins, and for more information about a high-protein diet.
CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:
- You have a fever.
- Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
- Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
- You have questions or concerns about your surgery, or medicine.
SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:
- You feel something is bulging out from your graft site and not going back in.
- Your grafted or donor site has blood, pus, or a foul-smelling odor.
- You have more pain in the area where the graft was made.
- You have trouble breathing all of a sudden.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.