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Skin Grafts ~ what is a skin graft ~ Things to aware of when having a skin graft

Updated on May 3, 2012

How is skin removed to use for your skin graft

If you need to have a skin graft like I did then I hope this will let you know what happens when you have this procedure. Firstly you will thankfully be asleep during both of your procedures.

The first procedure is when the top 2 layers of skin are removed from what is called the donor site. The surgeon uses a tool that looks similar to a potato peeler to remove lengths of skin from your donor site. My donor site was my right thigh and most of the skin was taken from the top of my thigh in strips.

Be aware that when you wake up the donor site will feel really sore, slightly itchy and like it is burning. It really does feel and look like someone has taken your skin off with a potato peeler.

It is at times a sad truth that surgeons need to cause us more pain to give us a better chance of having as close to a normal life as they can.

What happens with the Donated skin now?

Due to the size of the area that was needed to be covered on me the donor skin needed to be stretched and have lots of little holes put into it. This was done the day after my skin was removed from my thigh.

The surgeon told me the donated skin would be viable for a few more days yet. That was nice to know. He also said that they would have a little bit of spare stretched skin left over after they have covered my leg with the skin graft.

I asked him why he wanted to have spare skin and he told me it was for in case any of the graft didn't take they could whip me back into surgery and exchange the dying skin graft for the saved living skin graft. Basically this means you don't need to wait while you have more skin removed from a new donor site ... stretched ... before being able to fix any areas that don't take.

I like that they did this although I luckily didn't have any need for the saved skin graft.

Stapling the graft to the good skin
Stapling the graft to the good skin | Source

Placing the skin

2 days after my skin had been removed from my thigh I was finally sent into surgery to have the donor skin placed onto my lower left leg. The grafted skin was held in place by being stapled to the edges of the good skin on my lower leg.

I have to admit that I was surprised to see staples in my leg when I woke up. Before this I had only ever thought of staples being used in paper etc.

Things to be aware of after having a skin graft

After you have had a skin graft you need to make sure either the donor site or your skin graft gets sunburnt as due to the thinness of the skin in both places this could cause some serious medical problems.

The worst of these problems is that the skin could break down. This would mean that the surgeons would need to start again taking skin from a new donor site. This is not something you will want to repeat.

Secondly there is a greater chance of you getting some form of skin cancer due to the thinness of the skin and how deeply the harmful rays etc. will get.

The next thing to be aware of...

Your skin graft will never look like normal skin it will be a different colour and look spotty. Even years down the track so don't expect the grafted skin to turn into "normal" skin. It can't do this because it is only the first 2 layers that have been transferred not the full thickness with all the hair follicles etc.

The site where the skin was taken from will come close to looking normal again after many years. Please note the words "come close to".

One more thing to be aware of...

You will need to be a little more careful not to bang the area that has a skin graft as the skin will never be the same thickness of your normal skin. This means that it will tear and break easier. It will also hurt more if bumped, knocked or scraped.

It is well worth having this operation to get some form of skin coverage over any area of your body that needs to be covered as soon as possible

If you wish to read about how a drunk driver changed my life click here


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    • Lyn.Stewart profile image

      Lyn.Stewart 5 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Hey Chelsea ... ouch ... I have only twice gotten my skin graft sunburnt and it really is more painful than a normal sunburn. It really is worth trying not to let it get burnt as it is always more serious than getting normal skin burnt. Good luck and take care.

    • profile image

      Chelsea 5 years ago

      I have the exact same thing as you! I just recently got sunburned on my donor site.. and boy it's painful! even though it'll be 2 years the 20th, so you wouldn't think it'd be so serious.

      thank you though! this was interesting. :)

    • Lyn.Stewart profile image

      Lyn.Stewart 5 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Thanks weezyschannel

    • weezyschannel profile image

      Lisa 5 years ago from Central USA

      Ouch!!! well explained though thank you!

    • Lyn.Stewart profile image

      Lyn.Stewart 5 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Thanks kashmir56 ... I wrote this to hopefully help either someone who needs this done or their family to understand what happens. Sometimes doctors don't explain things in a way we an easily understand.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Lyn,very beautifully written hub and explained very well, will help anyone that needs to have skin grafts done .

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Lyn.Stewart profile image

      Lyn.Stewart 5 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

      Sorry about your salami sandwich darrensurrey ... I am glad that you liked it though.

    • darrensurrey profile image

      darrensurrey 5 years ago from Surrey, England

      Great article although you've put me off my salami sandwich.