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HealthInfo Canterbury

Self-care for skin grafts

Important

See your GP or an after-hours GP, or phone the Christchurch Hospital Plastic Surgery Outpatient Department on (03) 364‑0471 as soon as possible if you have:

For donor sites, If there is fluid under the Mefix (white tape) dressing, leakage or a bad smell from the wound, ask your district nurse or GP to look at it as soon as possible.

Caring for your graft

You can improve the chances of your skin graft healing well by:

Avoid starting aspirin and aspirin-based pain relief (painkillers) or other blood thinners such as warfarin, enoxaparin (Clexane), or dabigatran (Pradaxa) after your operation, as these can cause bleeding. If you are already taking regular prescribed aspirin or another blood thinner, talk to your doctor before stopping it.

Activities

Take it easy for two weeks or so. Don't work too much with your grafted area. Depending on where your graft is, how big it is and what your job is, you might need to take time off work – perhaps more than two weeks. Ask your GP for a medical certificate. If you need extra help to manage at home, discuss this with your ward nurse, district nurse or practice nurse.

Leg grafts

FDP older couple on couch

Hand or lower arm grafts

Keep the grafted area raised in a sling during the day, and keep your hand and arm up on pillows when you're resting.

Skin care

Once the grafted and donor areas are fully healed, gently massage a plain, non-medicated moisturising cream into them, one to two times a day, for two to three months. This keeps the scars soft and supple and helps them look better.

Protect grafted areas and donor sites from the sun by covering up with cotton clothing or 15+ sunscreen. Avoid synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, as these often aggravate newly healed skin.

Support stockings (Tubigrip)

If your graft is below your knee you may have to wear support stockings (Tubigrip). These need to fit firmly from your toes to just below your knee. You can leave the stockings off at night, but remember to put them on before you put your leg down from your bed.

Do not fold over, roll or shorten your support stockings – this can restrict circulation and cause swelling. You can hand wash them if you need to.

When your graft is healed, continue to wear your support stockings until your doctor or nurse tells you to stop doing so.

On the next page: Caring for your dressings

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Plastic Surgery Department, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed May 2021.

Sources

Page reference: 89509

Review key: HISGR-87518