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Skin Grafting


Skin grafting is surgery to cover and repair wounds with a skin graft. A skin graft is a portion of healthy skin that is taken from another area of your body called the donor site. Substitute skin grafts may also be used. These grafts may be artificial or they may come from another person or animal, such as a pig. Substitute skin grafts may be used only as temporary covers when large areas of the skin are damaged. They are replaced with your own skin over time.


Before your surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • Pre-op care: You are taken on a stretcher to the room where your procedure or surgery will be done, and then you are moved to a table or bed.
  • Anesthesia: This medicine is given to control pain during the surgery. An adult will need to drive you home and should stay with you for 24 hours. Ask your healthcare provider if you can drive or use machinery within 24 hours. Also ask if and when you can drink alcohol or use over-the-counter medicine.
  • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

During your surgery:

The pattern of the wound will be drawn over the skin of the donor site with a surgical marking pen. If the skin graft will come from your body, the graft will be taken from the donor site with a surgical knife. A full-thickness graft will be trimmed to match the wound. A split-thickness graft may need to be meshed (cut and stretched) to fit the wound. Once the graft is fitted and placed over the wound, stitches will be used to attach it in place. The donor site will also be closed with sutures or surgical staples. Bandages will be placed over the graft and donor sites.

After your surgery:

Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Bandages will cover the incision wounds to help prevent infection. If you had general anesthetic, an adult will need to drive you home. Your driver or someone else should stay with you for 24 hours. If you cannot go home, you will be taken to a hospital room.


You may need to walk around the same day of surgery, or the day after. Movement will help prevent blood clots. You may also be given exercises to do in bed. Do not get out of bed on your own until your caregiver says you can. Talk to caregivers before you get up the first time. They may need to help you stand up safely. When you are able to get up on your own, sit or lie down right away if you feel weak or dizzy. Then press the call light button to let caregivers know you need help.


  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and to help prevent vomiting.
  • Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease. The medicine may not work as well at controlling your pain if you wait too long to take it.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a caregiver when you want to get out of bed or if you need help.


  • The grafted skin may die, and you may need another graft. The grafted skin may not look or feel the way you expected. The skin may contract (shrink) or change color. Scars may form on the graft and donor sites. You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. Bleeding or infection under the graft may slow or prevent wound healing. You could have trouble breathing or get blood clots.
  • You may have continued pain or swelling after the surgery. Certain diseases or conditions may slow the healing process. Some examples are diabetes, blood vessel problems, and liver, kidney, lung, or heart conditions. Poor nutrition or a weak immune system may also cause problems with healing.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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.