Patients with partial or full thickness burns (second-, third-, and fourth-degree burns) generally need skin grafts to help close the wounds and prevent infection. Burn injury skin graft surgery can help patients heal faster, reduce their length of time in the hospital, and improve the appearance of the burned skin. It replaces skin on the burn site so that the body does not lose too many fluids and dangerous bacteria and viruses cannot enter the patients’ bodies, potentially causing infection.

How does skin graft surgery work?

Prior to performing skin graft surgery, the doctors will remove the dead skin around the burn site, a process called debridement.

They then select a donor site on the patient’s body from which to take healthy skin to apply to the burn wound. Doctors usually use the buttocks and thighs as donor sites.

Surgeons use a dermatome (a tool that cuts tissue into thin slices) to shave off a thin layer of healthy skin and apply it to the burn site. This skin removal does not usually require a surgical closing as doctors only removed a thin, partial thickness of skin.

The body will generate new skin at the donor site within 10 to 14 days. If doctors need a full-thickness layer of donor skin to cover the patient’s wounds, they may need to close the donor site surgically.

What if the wounds are large and donor skin is scarce?

There have been many medical advances in burn treatment and skin graft surgeries, which means that there are excellent treatments for even the most severe of burn injuries. Even patients with burns covering up to 90 percent of their bodies can survive, according to the Encyclopedia of Surgery.

If the total body surface area affected by the burn is exceptional, doctors can take donor skin from multiple sites on the patient, make a “mesh” with it, and apply it to the wound. In addition, doctors can take skin from the same donor site several times, allowing new skin to heal each time in between surgeries.

In cases where the patient has very few healthy donor sites available, doctors can use skin from skin banks or synthetic skin to help the burn site heal.

Are there any complications for skin graft surgeries?

Most skin graft surgeries are very successful; patients’ hospital stays are generally one to two weeks. However, if the donor skin or burn injury site is not sterile or doctors do not prepare it correctly, it can lead to infection and poor blood flow to the area. In cases where the patient’s body rejects the graft, doctors can perform repeat skin graft surgeries.

Contractures (hardening of tissue) are a common concern with serious burn injuries and grafting because these types of scars can restrict movements and cause disability and deformation.

Patients should also be aware of the emotional effects that accompany burn injuries. “Aftercare of patients with severe burns typically includes psychological or psychiatric counseling as well as wound care and physical rehabilitation, particularly if the patient’s face has been disfigured. The severe pain and lengthy period of recovery involved in burn treatment are often accompanied by anxiety and depression,” according to the Encyclopedia of Surgery.

How much do skin graft surgeries cost?

The overall cost of treatments for serious burn injuries can be quite high. According to Healthcare Bluebook, a single skin graft surgery can cost over $14,000 and that only includes a three-day hospital stay. Each additional day can run roughly $1,800.

If you or your loved one recently suffered a burn accident, it is a good idea to look into your legal options. If the injuries were not your fault (such as those caused by a building fire or a defective machine), you may be able to obtain compensation to pay for your skin graft surgery and other medical bills, lost wages, and emotional harm.

If you need help finding a lawyer to represent you and help you recover compensation, call our lawyer referral specialists at 844-549-8774.