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The differences between mesh grafts, sheet grafts, and full-thickness skin grafts

Characteristics

Meshed STSG (Thin)

Sheet STSG (Thick)

Full-Thickness Skin Graft (FTSG)

Dermal Content

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Primary Contraction

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Secondary Contraction

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Engraftment

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Durability

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Pigmentation

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Resist Desiccation

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Recipient Bed

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Appearance

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Characteristics

Meshed STSG (Thin)

Sheet STSG (Thick)

Full-Thickness Skin Graft (FTSG)

Dermal Content

Contains the epidermis and a thinner layer of dermis, allowing it to be more pliable and conformable to irregular wound surfaces.

Contains a thicker layer of dermis compared to meshed grafts, providing a better cosmetic match and more resistance to trauma.

Composed of both the epidermis and the entire dermis, preserving more of the original skin structure, including sweat glands and hair follicles.

Primary Contraction

Experiences moderate contraction upon application due to the elastic properties of the skin.

Contracts slightly less than thin grafts because the additional dermal content provides more stability.

Exhibits the most significant contraction due to the full dermal layer which tends to shrink when healing.

Secondary Contraction

Tends to contract significantly during the healing process, which may lead to a tighter and less flexible wound area.

Exhibits moderate secondary contraction, resulting in a balance between flexibility and stability of the graft.

Has minimal secondary contraction, maintaining the most original size and shape after healing.

Engraftment

Has a high rate of successful attachment to the recipient site, as the mesh allows for excellent integration with the underlying tissue.

Has a good engraftment rate, though slightly lower than thin grafts due to the decreased surface area contact.

May have a lower engraftment rate than thinner grafts because it requires a well-vascularized recipient site.

Durability

Less durable compared to thicker grafts, suitable for areas that will not undergo significant abrasion or trauma.

More durable than meshed grafts and can withstand more wear and tear.

Most durable and best suited for areas of the body that are subject to frequent movement or forces.

Pigmentation

May initially match the surrounding skin well but can undergo changes like hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation over time.

Offers a good match to the surrounding skin and may have less pigmentation change than meshed grafts.

Provides the best color match to the surrounding skin, with the lowest chance of pigmentation changes.

Resist Desiccation

Less resistance to drying out; the graft may require more frequent dressing changes or special care to prevent desiccation.

Better resistance to drying out compared to thin grafts, offering a balance between maintenance needs and durability.

Offers the best resistance to drying out, which can be beneficial in areas without frequent dressing changes.

Recipient Bed

Requires a well-prepared recipient bed but can tolerate some irregularities due to its flexibility.

Requires a recipient bed that is well-vascularized and relatively flat for optimal attachment.

Demands an excellent recipient bed with optimal vascularization and contour for successful transplantation.

Appearance

Can have a noticeable mesh pattern, which may be visible even after healing, leading to a less desirable cosmetic outcome.

Provides a smooth, continuous skin surface that can lead to a more cosmetically appealing result.

Offers the best cosmetic outcome, closely resembling the appearance of normal, uninterrupted skin.


Skin grafts are a crucial component in the management of large wounds, burns, or areas of extensive skin loss due to various conditions. Here are the types and subtypes of skin grafts used in reconstructive surgery:

  • Split-Thickness Skin Grafts (STSGs)

  • Thin STSGs: Include the epidermis and a small portion of the dermis. They are more likely to survive transplantation because they have a higher chance of revascularization.

  • Intermediate STSGs: Contain a larger portion of the dermis, offer better durability and less contraction but require a well-vascularized recipient bed.

  • Thick STSGs: Comprise almost the entire dermis, providing the best cosmetic result and durability, but have the highest requirement for a well-vascularized bed for graft take.


Modification of STSGs

Why the division is made differently



  • Full-Thickness Skin Grafts (FTSGs)

  • Taken from areas where the skin is loose and redundant, such as the groin, the upper eyelid for lower eyelid reconstruction, or behind the ear for facial reconstruction.

  • Benefits: They provide better cosmetic results as they have a full dermal layer, leading to less secondary contraction and a better color match.

  • Challenges: Require meticulous surgical technique to prevent fluid accumulation under the graft, and they demand a very well-vascularized wound bed for successful grafting.

  • Composite Grafts

  • Contain skin and other tissues such as fat, cartilage, or mucosa.

  • Commonly used for the reconstruction of the nose and ears because they provide both skin coverage and structural support.

  • Cultured Epithelial Autografts (CEAs)

  • Produced by growing epidermal cells in a lab to create sheets of epithelium.

  • Mainly used for patients with extensive burns when there is not enough unburned skin to harvest for grafts.

Types Based on Donor Source:

  • Autografts: Skin taken from another part of the patient’s body.

  • Allografts: Skin taken from a donor of the same species (cadaveric skin).

  • Xenografts: Skin taken from a donor of a different species, such as pigs (porcine skin).


Graft Selection Factors:

  • Wound Characteristics: Size, depth, and location.

  • Patient Factors: Age, health status, and presence of comorbidities.

  • Desired Outcome: Functional requirements and cosmetic considerations.

For each type of graft, the surgical technique is crucial for success, including proper wound bed preparation, graft application, and post-operative care to prevent infection, ensure graft adherence, and promote healing.

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