Construction of Skin Graft Seams in Burn Patients: A Prospective Randomized Double-Blinded Study

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Abstract

Prominent scars and contractures may form along the seams between adjacent skin grafts. Seams may be constructed either by approximating the graft edges (AP), or by slightly overlapping the graft edges (OV), but it is not known if one technique creates a less conspicuous seam scar. The purpose of this study was to compare seam scars between seams constructed using the AP and OV techniques. This was a prospective within-patient and within-seam controlled study in adult burn patients treated at an American Burn Association-verified burn center. At skin graft application and seam construction, study seams were divided in half. One half of the seam was made by approximating the graft edges (AP group), while the other half was made by overlapping graft edges (OV group), before identical staple or suture fixation of each half. The AP or OV technique was randomly assigned to the medial or lateral ends of transversely oriented seams or to the proximal and distal ends of longitudinally oriented seams. At 3, 6, and 12 months post surgery, a blinded rater compared the two halves of each study seam scar using the Vancouver Scar Score (VSS). Subjects were also blinded and rated each half of their study seam using a 0 (poor) to 10 (excellent) visual analogue scale. Values are shown as the median (Q1–Q3). There were 44 study seams among 19 subjects (age 51 [36–70] years, with % TBSA burn 10 [7–18], % BSA full-thickness burn 8 [6–15]). Study seams were constructed at 10 (4–15) days post burn. Study seam length was 14.5 (10.3–18.0) cm, with 25% transversely oriented and 75% longitudinally oriented, and with 35/44 seams (80%) between meshed grafts and 9/44 (20%) between sheet grafts. There were no significant differences in any of the individual domain VSS scores (height, pliability, vascularity, and pigmentation) or total VSS score between AP and OV seams at 3, 6, and 12 months. At 12 months, among the 30 study seams that were visible to the subjects, the visual analogue scale score for the AP seams was 9 (8.5–10), which did not differ significantly from the OV seams (9.5 [8.45–10], P = .821). Overlapping or approximating adjacent skin grafts at the time of seam construction does not appear to affect final seam scar quality.

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