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Skin flaps and grafts - self-care

Autograft - self-care; Skin transplant - self-care; Split-skin graft - self-care; Full thickness skin graft - self-care; Partial-dermal skin graft - self-care; FTSG - self-care; STSG - self-care; Local flaps - self-care; Regional flaps - self-care; Distant flaps - self-care; Free flap - self-care; Skin autografting - self-care; Pressure ulcer skin flap self-care; Burns skin flap self-care; Skin ulcer skin graft self-care


Skin layers


Skin graft - series

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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.

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

A skin flap is healthy skin and tissue that is partly detached and moved to cover a nearby wound.

Skin grafts are used to help more serious, larger and deeper wounds heal, including:

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. Donor sites for grafts and flaps are chosen based on:

Often the donor site may be more painful after surgery than the wound due to newly exposed nerve endings.

Caring for Skin Flaps and Grafts

You will need to care for the flap or graft site as well as the donor site. When you come home after surgery, you will have a dressing on your wounds. The dressing does several things, including:

To care for the graft or flap site:

To care for the donor site:

Bathing or Showering

Your provider will let you know when it is OK to bathe after surgery. Keep in mind:

At some point during the healing process, you will not need a dressing anymore. Your provider will tell you when you can leave your wound uncovered and how to care for it.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your provider if:

Also call your provider if you notice signs of an infection, such as:


Padilla PL, Khoo KH, Ho TH, et al. Plastic surgery. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 69.

Pettengill KM. Therapy management of complex injuries of the hand. In: Skirven TM, Osterman AL, Fedorczyk JM, Amadio PC, Feldscher SB, Shin EK, eds. Rehabilitation of the Hand and Upper Extremity. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 75.

Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Aebersold ML, Gonzalez L. Wound care and dressings. In: Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Aebersold ML, Gonzalez L, eds. Clinical Nursing Skills. 9th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Pearson; 2017:chap 25.

Wysong A, Higgins S. Basic principles in flap reconstruction. In: Rohrer TE, Cook JL, Kaufman AJ, eds. Flaps and Grafts in Dermatologic Surgery. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 2.


Review Date: 5/31/2022  

Reviewed By: Elika Hoss, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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