First do no harm: A patient-reported survey of split skin graft donor site morbidities following thin and super-thin graft harvest

Sarah E. Bache, Lisa Martin, Danielle Malatzky, Michal Nessler, Andrew Frank , Helen Douglas, Suzanne Rea, Fiona Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The split-thickness skin graft (STSG) donor site is the commonest iatrogenic injury sustained during burn surgery and as such the focus should be on minimizing it. Modifications to practice in our unit which we believe aid this include limiting the amount of STSG taken and the harvest of super-thin STSGs, with 0.003–0.005 in. (0.08–0.13 mm) being the commonest dermatome settings used. A patient-reported survey via a mobile phone link to a questionnaire was sent to 250 patients who had a STSG for an acute burn between 1st August 2020 and 31st July 2021. Patient demographics were collected from electronic records including the thickness of the FTSG taken when recorded. Patient responses were statistically analyzed and logistic regression with backwards elimination was performed to explore which contributing factors led to an improved experience of the donor site. Questionnaire responses were obtained from 107 patients (43%). These were between one and two and a half years after the injury. Concerning early donor site issues, itch was a problem for 52% of patients, pain was a problem for 48% of patients. Less common problems (fewer than 25% of patients) were leaking donor sites, wound breakdown, and over-granulation. Regarding long-term outcomes, increased, decreased or mixed pigmentation at the donor site was reported by 32% patients at the time of the survey. Hyper-vascular donor sites were reported by 24% patients. Raised or uneven feeling donor sites were reported by 19% patients, firm or stiff donor sites by 13% patients, and altered sensation by 10% patients. At the time of the survey, 70% responders reported their donor site looked “the same or about the same as my normal skin”. Of these, 62 reported how long it took for this to happen, and it equates to a third looking normal at 6 months and half looking normal at a year. For the 32 patients who reported their donor site looking abnormal, 72% were “not bothered” by it. Patients with super-thin grafts (0.003–0.005 in.) were significantly more likely to have normal sensation, normal stiffness, and be less raised at their donor sites than those who had thin grafts (0.006–0.008 in.). This survey gives important information on patients’ experiences of donor site morbidity that may form part of an informed consent process and allow tailored advice. Furthermore, it suggests that super-thin grafts may provide a superior donor site experience for patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-51
Number of pages11
Issue number1
Early online date2 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'First do no harm: A patient-reported survey of split skin graft donor site morbidities following thin and super-thin graft harvest'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this