Scalp Autografts and Hair Transfer to the Face in the Burned Child

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Abstract

Hair transfer from split-thickness skin grafts harvested from the scalp is not a widely reported problem. The authors present their experience with hair transfer from scalp autografts in a pediatric burn population, with particular emphasis on hair transfer to the face. They retrospectively reviewed 3307 acute and reconstructive pediatric burn admissions over a 4-year period at a single institution and identified 109 cases in which the scalp had been used as a donor site and in which the patient survived the acute burn period. Data from 73 male and 36 female patients were analyzed with respect to age, race, sex, percent total body surface area burned, graft thickness, number of scalp harvests and time between harvests, and presence of donor site alopecia.

Eighteen of the 109 patients had noticeable hair growth from their scalp grafts (17 percent). Fourteen of 18 cases of hair growth involved face or neck grafts (13 percent); the remaining 4 patients had hair growth elsewhere on the body. There was no difference between the two groups (hair growth versus no hair growth) when compared by age, sex, or graft thickness. There was a correlation between larger burn size and greater incidence of hair growth. Those who had multiple harvests of the same scalp donor site were more than twice as likely to have hair transfer (9 of 34 versus 9 of 75 patients), although time between harvests was not a significant variable. Caucasian children represented 77 percent of the study population yet 100 percent of the cases of problem hair growth. Thirty-three percent of the hair growth group (6 of 18 patients) and 4 percent of the remaining patients (4 of 91) had some degree of donor site alopecia.

The scalp is a reliable and valuable donor site for skin grafting in children, particularly for facial burns. The authors note a moderate incidence of hair transfer (17 percent) and propose both suggestions for prevention and recommendations for management. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 102: 1865, 1998.)

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