A skin graft is a piece of healthy skin removed from one area of your body to repair damaged or missing skin somewhere else on your body. This skin does not have its own source of blood flow.
A skin flap is healthy skin and tissue that is partly detached and moved to cover a nearby wound.
- A skin flap may contain skin and fat, or skin, fat, and muscle.
- Often, a skin flap is still attached to its original site at one end and remains connected to a blood vessel.
- Sometimes a flap is moved to a new site and the blood vessel is surgically reconnected. This is called a free flap.
The area from where skin is taken is called the donor site. After surgery, you will have two wounds, the graft or flap itself and the donor site.
Learning how to care for skin flaps and grafts can help them heal more quickly and reduce scarring.
Why Skin Flap or Graft Surgery is Performed
Skin grafts are used to help more serious wounds heal, including:
- Wounds that are too big to heal on their own
- Skin loss from a serious skin infection
- Surgery for skin cancer
- Venous ulcers, pressure ulcers, or diabetic ulcers that DO NOT heal
- After mastectomy or amputation
Donor sites for grafts and flaps are chosen based on:
- How closely the skin matches the area of the wound
- How visible the scar will be from the donor site
- How close the donor site is to the wound
Often the donor site may be more painful after surgery than the wound due to newly exposed nerve endings.