Skin and Tissue Grafting

What is skin and tissue grafting?

If you have a large wound, such as one caused by a bad burn or a surgery, you may need a skin graft, tissue graft or tissue expansion. The wound experts at Main Line Health are experienced in healing large wounds using these treatments.

During a skin graft, a portion of your healthy skin is removed from one area during surgery and attached to the wounded area. During a tissue graft, a living piece of tissue, and the blood vessels that keep it alive, is taken from one part of the body and moved to the wounded part of the body, where it can grow. Tissue expansion involves placing a balloon-like device under the skin and expanding slowly in order to encourage the skin to stretch and grow.

The most common reasons you may need skin or tissue graft include:

  • Burns
  • Diabetic ulcer wounds
  • Infected wounds
  • Large, open wounds
  • Venous ulcer wounds
  • Pressure ulcer wounds
  • Wounds due to open surgery, reconstructive surgery or skin cancer surgery

Types of skin and tissue grafting

The type of skin or tissue graft you need will depend on the type and size of your wound.

There are two types of skin grafts:

  • Split-thickness graft – which involves only the top two layers of skin
  • Full-thickness graft – which involves all layers of skin

What to expect from skin and tissue grafting?

No matter which type of skin graft you have, you will be given anesthesia during the surgery to put you to sleep so you do not feel any pain while the doctor removes skin.

Tissue grafting is done using a special flap surgery. During this surgery, a piece of tissue is removed from one part of the body and transferred to another part and reconnected. Flap surgery is most often used to repair large, open wounds or for breast reconstruction surgery due to breast cancer. It is called flap surgery because the skin remains partly attached and open, but is later stitched completely to your body.

During tissue expansion, a balloon like device is inserted under your skin near the area that has an open wound in order to stretch the skin. After a length of time, such as three or four months, you will have another surgery to have the expander removed. During this time, the newly grown skin will be positioned in place over your wound.


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