How to Heal Skin Grafts

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A skin graft is a portion of skin taken from another area of your body or from an animal or other source, and attached by a surgeon to replace skin that has been damaged. Skin grafts are commonly used for burns, scars and large wounds. There are two types of skin grafts. The most common type is a split-thickness graft which removes only a thin layer of skin. A full-thickness skin graft involves all layers of the skin and takes much longer to heal.

A surgen reaches for a scalpel during a surgery.
(Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

Things You'll Need

  • Dressing/bandages
  • Follow-up doctor's appointments
  • High-protein diet
Step 1

Keep your dressing clean and dry. After surgery, your doctor will wrap the grafted area in gauze to hold it in place. The dressing should not be removed for the first three to seven days, depending on your doctor's instructions. After the doctor removes your bandage, keep the skin graft covered with ointment and gauze dressing, or a bandage or band-aid for smaller wounds, for at least a month. During the second week after surgery, start cleaning your wound with tap water on a Q-tip once a day and then applying Vaseline or Polysporin ointment.

A pair of scissors and medical tape lay on top of rolls of clean gauze.
Ivan Ivanov/iStock/Getty Images
Step 2

Visit your doctor for follow-up care. Your doctor will probably want to remove the dressings himself. Keep all follow-up appointments so the doctor can check your progress, remove sutures if they don't self-dissolve and remove any fluid that has collected in the area. Increased drainage is a sign of infection. He will also want to look at the wound for any other signs of infection and make sure it is healing properly.

A doctor applies a bandage to a patient's palm.
Severin Schweiger/Hemera/Getty Images
Step 3

Avoid strenuous exercise or lifting that could stretch or injure the wound. The doctor will give you specific instructions depending on the location of the skin graft on your body. If the skin graft area is an arm or leg, keep it raised above your heart for the first 24-48 hours after surgery to prevent blood clots. If the surgical area is on your head or neck, keep your head elevated for the first 24-48 hours after surgery to reduce swelling. The doctor may recommend physical therapy once your skin graft has healed.

A woman rests on the couch.
Jacob Wackerhausen/iStock/Getty Images
Step 4

Eat a high-protein diet. The skin and underlying tissues are made of protein so a diet high in protein will help the tissue repair faster. Meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, bread, nuts and seeds are all high-protein choices that will help you feel better and your skin heal quickly. You can also use protein powders in drinks and moist food.

Protein rich ingredients on a table.
AlexPro9500/iStock/Getty Images

Tips & Warnings

  • Seek care immediately if you have a fever or body aches. or redness, swelling, bleeding or pus coming from the graft site. These could be signs of an infection.
  • Most skin grafts heal well and are successful transplants. If, however, your graft does not heal, you may need a second graft.

References

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