What Is A Skin Graft

Posted On Dec 24, 2019

Department of

Manipal Hospitals

The skin is the outer covering of the body. It protects us from heat, light, injury, and infection, and regulates the body temperature. It is the largest organ of the body and has two main layers. The skin contains a fine network of nerves, which gives us the ability to feel.

A skin graft is a part of the skin harvested from a particular area of the body. There are many situations where skin grafting becomes necessary. Any situation that results in an open wound with an appropriately healthy base can be covered with a skin graft. Let’s go into the details to understand the reasons for a skin graft.

What is skin grafting?

Skin grafting is a surgical procedure which involves the removal of the skin graft from a specific area of the body and transplanting it onto the affected area. It is performed when there is an open wound too large to be covered by natural skin regeneration.  Such wounds if covered by a graft, heal fast with lesser complications.

Types of skin grafts:

The graft is commonly referred to either as an allograft or an autograft. An autograft is harvested from the patient’s body. An allograft is a skin graft from another human being. Xenografts are temporary skin coverings that are harvested from animals, usually pigs.

Based on thickness, there are three types of skin grafts:

Split-level thickness grafts

These grafts comprise two layers of the skin, the epidermis, and dermis. These layers are taken from the area where the skin is healthy. These grafts are used to cover large areas of the wound. Split-level thickness grafts are fragile and typically have a smooth or shiny appearance. The disadvantage of this graft is that it does not grow along with the rest of the skin and requires additional grafts.

Full-thickness grafts

These grafts comprise of the muscles and the blood vessels in addition to the top of the two layers of the skin from the donor site. It is used for small wounds on highly visible parts of the body such as the face. It blends well with the surrounding skin and usually grows with the other skin.

Composite grafts

 These grafts comprise skin and underlying cartilage or other tissue. It is used to reconstruct nasal rim defects.

Reasons for skin grafting transplantation surgery

Skin grafts are placed in areas of damaged skin, which may not be able to regenerate on their own. Skin grafts may be required for several traumatic injuries, certain medical conditions, and post-surgical healing.


Severe burns are the most common injuries treated with skin grafts. Minor burns only affect the topmost layer of the skin and usually heal on their own. Skin graft transplantation is required if the patient has second-degree burns that cover more than 10 percent of the body. A third-degree burn extends through all the three layers of the skin; sometimes it may reach the muscle, cartilage, and even the bones. In such extreme injuries, a skin graft is required to heal the wound.

Pressure ulcers

Pressure ulcers are also known as bedsores. It is a chronic and dangerous condition and mostly occurs in patients who are bedridden or confined to a wheelchair. The ulcers are usually caused by prolonged pressure on the particular part of the body, cutting off the circulation. The common place for pressure ulcers are the buttocks, hips, back of the legs, shoulder blades, and even the head. Some ulcers are small, but a stage IV ulcer is the most serious kind, and it can cause damage to the underlying muscle and bones. Skin graft transplantation is required to close the wounds.


Diabetes may lead to loss of sensation in the feet and formation of ulcers without the patient’s knowledge. These ulcers can get infected, eventually requiring an amputation. Diabetic ulcers are the most common causes for non-traumatic foot amputations. In such conditions, skin grafts are used to cover and close the wounds and promote healing.

Reconstructive cosmetic surgery

Usually, Cosmetic reconstructive surgery is required for cancer patients. Skin grafts are used to replace the lost skin which is removed along with the cancerous tissue. Breast reconstruction after a mastectomy may require the removal of nipples and areola which are then grafted with the skin grafts in a new position. If a section of the nose is lost in skin cancer surgery, it is replaced with skin grafts from other parts of the body.

Like any other surgery, a skin graft also has certain risk factors and benefits. Before going for the skin graft surgery make sure to be well informed. After the surgery, you may feel uncomfortable with the graft, but later on, it will heal. Make sure that you follow the instructions suggested by your surgeon.

A skin graft surgery is a very useful advancement in cosmetic sciences. It can change the life of an individual for the better and help them with their self-image and esteem. Do like and share this blog in order spread awareness.

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