Fractional Skin Harvesting: Autologous Skin Grafting without Donor-site Morbidity

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Background:Conventional autologous skin grafts are associated with significant donor-site morbidity. This study was conducted to determine feasibility, safety, and efficacy of a new strategy for skin grafting based on harvesting small columns of full-thickness skin with minimal donor-site morbidity.Methods:The swine model was used for this study. Hundreds of full-thickness columns of skin tissue (~700 µm diameter) were harvested using a custom-made harvesting device, and then applied directly to excisional skin wounds. Healing in donor and graft sites was evaluated over 3 months by digital photographic measurement of wound size and blinded, computer-aided evaluation of histological features and compared with control wounds that healed by secondary intention or with conventional split-thickness skin grafts (STSG).Results:After harvesting hundreds of skin columns, the donor sites healed rapidly without scarring. These sites reepithelialized within days and were grossly and histologically indistinguishable from normal skin within 7 weeks. By contrast, STSG donor sites required 2 weeks for reepithelialization and retained scar-like characteristics in epidermal and dermal architecture throughout the experiment. Wounds grafted with skin columns resulted in accelerated reepithelialization compared with ungrafted wounds while avoiding the “fish-net” patterning caused by STSG.Conclusion:Full-thickness columns of skin can be harvested in large quantities with negligible long-term donor-site morbidity, and these columns can be applied directly to skin wounds to enhance wound healing.

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