Sunday, March 05, 2006

Thoughts on Skin Grafts

It's 5 days on since my skin graft.
I wasn't entirely sure what to expect and I'm certain that different people have different experiences, but I have learned a few lessons.
Firstly, I was told that the donor site was more painful that the graft site. This I can confirm first hand. The wound site has given me no trouble at all. I suppose this might have something to do with the vacuum dressing which is anchoring the graft in place on the wound but somehow I doubt it. The donor site however was fairly uncomfortable when the painkillers wore off and frankly is a real nuisance. It is quite high on my left thigh and was initially dressed with a crepe bandage around it. As soon as I stood up the dressing slipped down my leg. The second dressing put on by the nurses on the ward suffered the same fate. In the end we opted for a guaze dressing secured by tape onto my leg. This didn't slip, but it did leak. About 3am Thursday I woke up in a small puddle that had oozed from the dressing. Temporary relief was provided by more tape and a couple of old towels until the district nurse came to change the dressing. We have now gone with a dressing of Mepilex which is like a large elastoplast which allows air to circulate. This has proven so successful that I can feel a scab forming under the dressing, which is great until they want to change it! Every time I flex my thigh it does stretch the scab and can be a bit painful which has curtailed some of my physiotherapy.
Perhaps the biggest potential problem was the need to keep weight of my left left for 4 days so as not to disturb the graft. This was sprung on me by the physios who made me walk through the ward and up and down a flight of steps before they would let me go home. I don't mind admitting that this was hard work. My right leg is better that it was, but it is still broken, and hopping even with the aid of crutches was not entirely comfortable. I was able to complete the task in the hospital but must confess to the odd relapse at home. Sadly, I had already made two trips to the toilet with full weight taken on my leg before the news was broken to me, so hopefully that didn't do any harm. Frankly, my ankle is so well anchored that I don't think the wound site moves very much when I walk and bear weight on that leg.

Admittedly I don't know the results yet, but based on my experiences so far the discomfort is certainly not disproportionate to the benefits. I don't expect to have a perfect leg after this, but anything that reduces the healing time and protects against infection must be worth doing. The pain is all in the donor site and is easily managed by the painkiller regime already in place.


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