Skin Grafts & Healing

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iImage by, courtesy of Erich Ferdinand

When there is no possibility that a wound will close on its own and in situations where skin regeneration is unlikely, skin grafts are recommended. Skin grafts come in two types: full thickness (FTSG) and split-thickness (STSG). FTSGs are commonly used in areas such as the tip of the nose, forehead and eyelids. STSGs are often transplanted onto larger areas and are especially useful for surgical correction and pigmentation disorders.

What is Skin Grafting?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, skin grafting involves the surgical removal of a patch of healthy skin tissue. The skin is then transplanted in another area, following the surgical removal. The area in which the skin is removed is called the "donor site."

Serum Imbibition

In the book “Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery,” authors Ira D. Papel and John Frodel explain that within the first 24 to 48 hours of placing a successful skin graft, a process known as serum imbibition will occur. During this healing phase, the skin graft begins to absorb water and develop a pink hue.

Revascularization Phase

During the revascularization phase of skin graft healing, the skin graft cells begin to connect with the host cells. Bonding is further encouraged with the help of collagen and fibrin. Southwestern Medical Center explains that in as early as five days, the skin graft and host begin to share lymphatic processes.


Regeneration begins after a skin graft is attached and continues throughout the entire healing process. During regeneration, sweat glands, sebaceous glands and hair begin to grow. According to the Baylor College of Medicine, not everyone who receives a skin graft will experience full sweat and sebaceous gland recovery. Dry skin and temperature regulation problems within the body are usually the result.


The recovery of feeling is the final stage of the skin graft healing process. Some patients develop what is known as hypersensitivity in the area of the skin graft; they experience over-stimulation of the nerve cells in that area. There are some skin graft patients that never regain any feeling in the transplant area.


Complications associated with skin grafts can be a cause for concern. Many of these complications are more prevalent in people who are more than 60 years of age or who smoke. But some pre-existing health conditions and medications can also affect the outcome of a skin graft. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center explains that some of these complications can include the complete failure of the graft, bleeding and infection.