Skin Grafting

In many instances, when a person is severely burned, a skin graft is used to cover the injured area. Skin grafting is a surgically removed or lab grown portion of skin that is transplanted to another area. It is a form of medical grafting that involves the transplantation of skin.


There are two main purposes for using a skin graft. The first is that it reduces the amount of treatment needed and reduces the amount of time a person is likely to spend in the hospital. A skin graft can also be used to improve the function and appearance of an injured area.


Grafts themselves can come from a variety of sources. They can be taken from the injured individual’s own body, an animal, or grown from the person’s own cells. Animal grafts are generally meant to be a temporary measure. They are generally rejected by a person’s body within a few days to a few weeks. Despite this, they are very good for reducing bacterial contamination of an open burn site as well as minimizing fluid loss. Cell Cultured Epithelial Autografts (CEA) take skin cells from the patient and then use those cells to grow new skin in a laboratory. The new sheets, when they are large enough, are used as the grafts. Because they have the same cells as the person’s own skin, they are generally not rejected by the body. Unfortunately, these sheets are very thin, do not stand up well to trauma, and the take is often less than 100%.

How It Works

When the skin graft is taken from an individual’s own body, a portion of skin is removed from a generally unseen area of the body. The doctors will surgically remove the entire epidermis (the upper layer of skin) and part of the dermis (the layer of skin below the epidermis). This is called a split-thickness skin graft. The graft skin is then placed over the injured area and stretched to cover the area desired by the doctors. It is then held in place by either a few small stitches or surgical staples. The downside of this method is that the graft donor site is commonly very painful and also susceptible to infections.