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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.


The week before your surgery:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your surgery.
  • Arrange for a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery. Do not drive yourself home.
  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • You may need to have blood tests, electrocardiogram (ECG), chest x-ray, and other tests. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these tests that you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.
  • Your healthcare provider may also need to prepare the wound and donor sites before the surgery. He may need to clean the wound site by removing dead tissue. He may ask you to keep the wound free from germs until your surgery.

The night before your surgery:

  • You may be given medicine to help you sleep.
  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your surgery:

  • Ask your healthcare provider before you take any medicine on the day of your surgery. Bring all the medicines you are taking, including the pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
  • Do not wear tight-fitting clothes on the day of your procedure or surgery.
  • An anesthesiologist may talk to you before your surgery. He may give you medicine called anesthesia to make you sleepy before your procedure or surgery. Anesthesia is given to control pain during surgery. Tell him if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.


What will happen:

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. Bandages will be placed over the graft and donor sites.

After surgery:

You are taken to a room where your heart and breathing will be monitored. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Bandages will cover the incision wounds to help prevent infection. You may be able to go home after some time passes. 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 cannot make it to your appointment on time.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a skin infection or an infected wound near the area where the surgery will be done.
  • You have questions or concerns about your surgery.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • You have pain, bleeding, or a foul-smelling discharge from your wound.


  • 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.

Care Agreement

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.