Skin grafting is a surgical procedure that involves taking skin from one part of the body to replace lost or damaged skin on a different area. In free-transfer grafts procedure only a partial thickness of skin is taken from the ‘donor’ site to replace the damaged skin. In the rotation flaps procedure, complete thickness of skin is taken.
Skin grafting is done to people who have suffered burns, injuries, wounds or have skin infections due to which the skin on the affected area is lost. If healthy skin is available on the person’s body, it is taken to replace the damaged skin; if not, skin is taken from a suitable corpse. When that is not an option, skin from a pig is taken to cover the injured area.
Allograft – taking skin from a cadaver / corpse to cover the injured area.
Xenograft – taking skin from an animal such as a pig to cover the injured area.
In allograft and xenograft cases, the skin will just cover the injured site temporarily until the body grows new skin and covers up the wound or burn.
Types of skin graft surgery
- Split thickness skin graft (STSG) – In this procedure, skin from thigh, buttocks, belly or back is taken. Only the epidermis and a part of the dermis is taken to replace the damaged skin on the injured site.
- Full thickness skin graft (FTSG) – In this procedure, the epidermis and dermis is taken from the ‘donor site’. This procedure is adopted when the injured site requires a little longer to heal.
- Composite graft – Skin along with the cartilage or other soft tissue is taken from the donor location. Such grafts are used when replacing skin on the nose, fingertips or ears.
Healing after skin graft surgery
Skin graft most often involves two areas of surgery when the skin is taken from the same person. One needs to watch out both the sites (donor and recipient sites) until they are healed. Any leakage of fluids or pus from either or both locations can indicate an infection.
Care to be taken during the healing process after skin graft surgery:
- Regular clean up and dressing. The surgeon usually guides about how often the surgical sites need to be cleaned up and dressing should be changed. If it is not possible for you to clean and change the dressing, it’s better to see your doctor or nurse to do that for you.
- Avoid water until healed – getting injuries (accidental or surgical) or cuts in contact with water can increase the chances of infection. Better to avoid contact with water for at least one week.
- Follow the prescription without fail. Prescription drugs after skin grafting most often include pain medication and antibiotics along with other supplements or healing medicines as needed. Follow the prescription until it is complete.
- Follow up with your doctor. Regular doctor visits are necessary to make sure you are healing without any complications.
Possible problems during skin graft healing
After skin graft, an infection at either of the sites is possible in some people. Leaking of any fluids or pus is usually a sign of infection.
The second problem that can arise during the healing process after skin grafting is, the edges of the new skin doesn’t patch up with the underlying skin. This may be due to inexperienced slicing and replacing the skin by junior or not so experienced specialists. In such cases, the procedure has to be repeated all over again resulting in multiple skin grafting procedures.
How HBOT can help in healing after skin graft
HBOT procedure involves lying or sitting in an airtight compartment wherein you will be supplied with 100% pure medical grade oxygen at twice or thrice the normal atmospheric pressure. As a result, you will inhale a lot more oxygen than being in a regular atmosphere. More oxygen gets dissolved in the red blood cells and a little bit in the plasma.
During the skin graft healing procedure, supplying oxygen to the injured site is very essential for multiple reasons:
- Supplying oxygen to the injured site helps in growing new blood vessels (called neovascularization). This inturn helps in moving more blood to the site resulting in quicker healing.
- Supplying oxygen to the surgical area helps in killing bacteria that can possibly lead to an infection.
- Even when the blood vessels are not formed, the oxygen that is dissolved in the blood is supplied to the injured site, cementing the recovery process.
- Along with neovascularization, HBOT helps in reducing the oedema (or accumulation of fluids) at the site of injury. Body pumps fluids to an injured site when it starts healing it. However, presence of fluids can lead to infection and make it difficult to heal by blocking or compressing the blood vessels.
If you underwent skin grafting or any other surgical procedure, go for HBOT therapy for a quicker healing. If you are diabetic and have unresolving wounds in legs, HBOT IS THE procedure you need to go for.