What Causes Skin Graft Failure?

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There is always the possibility of a skin graft failure or even a rejection with reconstruction surgery. This will certainly be a nuisance for anyone in this situation. While you may make every attempt to prevent it, sometime a failure or rejection may just occur. Much like any other type of transplant, sometimes these failures and rejections cannot be prevented.

Preparation and Precautions

To minimize the chances of a failure, several guidelines have been put in place to prevent rejections. For starters, it is usually not performed for a first or second degree burn. These types of burns in general, will heal without much scarring at all. Even if scarring does occur with a first or second degree burn, they can usually be remedied through a cosmetic procedure like a laser resurfacing technique.

Preventing a failure or rejection comes in two parts. The first part is in regards to the donor site. If yours involves lab produced skin grafts then this is not an issue. The second part has to do with the recipient site for the graft. Both of these areas need to be completely sterilized. The reason for this is that if the donor skin is not sterilized, it can carry with it bacteria which can lead to an infection as well as a skin grafting failure. If the recipient site is not sterilized completely, then the bacteria will get trapped under the donor skin and thus causes an infection.


There are the standard complications which are associated with it which may lead to a skin graft failure. But there are also some cases in which the anesthetic or the donor skin may cause the failure. The most likely between these three though has to do with the donor skin especially if it is an allograft – which means it is coming from another person. Just like any organ in the body, not everyone in your family can give you their skin and your body accept it.

The most common reasons for a failure though has to do with the flow of blood to the recipient site. The newly grafted layers of skin need blood. Remember that your skin is also an organ and it needs constant blood supply to grow, regenerate and heal. If this blood flow is limited, then there is a larger chance that the skin graft will fail. Furthermore, the swelling associated with any type of bodily trauma can cause the skin graft to fail. Last but not least, even the slightest and most minute infection can cause it to fail, especially if it is due to trapped bacteria during the actual grafting process. This cannot always be prevented. The surgeon will physically do his or her best to ensure that all the bacteria are dead, but sometimes there may be some left.

Want to learn more about preventing skin graft failure? Reach out and we’ll be happy to answer any question you may have.

Source by Dr. Jim Greene

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