After a severe burn, the affected skin may be unable to heal on its own because of the significant damage it has sustained. A doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to transplant healthy skin over the area of damage, a procedure called a skin graft.
The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center describes the different types of skin grafts, categorized according to the source of the transplant.
A xenograft is a skin graft in which the healthy skin tissue for transplant comes from an animal. The graft typically comes from a pig. This is usually a temporary treatment.
Also called a homograft, an allograft is a transplant of healthy skin tissue from another human being. Usually, the doctor takes the graft material from a cadaver. More rarely, a living donor provides the graft.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the most common type of skin graft is an autograft in which the doctor takes healthy skin from another, unaffected area of the patient’s body to transplant to the damaged area. Any part of the body, excluding the face, can provide autograft material for the transplant. The most frequent donor sites are the back and the thigh.
There are two different subtypes of autograft. A split-thickness autograft involves removing and transplanting only the outermost layer of skin. Healthy tissue at the donor site can regenerate itself in about two weeks. A full-thickness skin graft involves removing two layers of skin from the donor site for transplant to the area of damage. As with a split-thickness skin graft, the donor site eventually recovers, but the healing process takes longer.
Xenografts and allografts are usually temporary treatments until the patient has enough healthy tissue for the doctor to perform an autograft, a more permanent treatment.