Donor Sites

What is a donor site? 

A donor site is the area left where a piece of skin has been taken to cover a wound on another part of the body.  There are various areas from which skin can be taken, such as the thigh, the upper arm, or even the buttocks. 

How long will it take for the donor site to heal? 

It usually takes around 10-14 days. The dressing applied in theatre at the time of your operation will stay in place for that period and should be kept clean and dry.  A donor site is like a bad graze, so the dressing protects the raw surface and allows it to heal, and also soaks up any fluid that naturally seeps from the wound. This can sometimes cause a strange odour, but this is normal. 

Will the dressing need to be changed before the 10-14 day period? 

There are times when a donor area does need to be changed, such as if the dressing becomes loose, if there is an excessive loss of fluid through the dressing or if it becomes infected. This can be done by the hospital nurse if you are still in hospital, by the plastic surgery dressing clinic nurses or by your local practice nurse once you have been discharged. 

Will I get any pain from my donor site? 

Some people experience more pain than others, usually within the first 48 hours. Regular painkillers, such as paracetamol, can be taken. 

Who will remove the dressing when it is due to come off? 

This will be done by the plastic surgery dressing clinic at the hospital, the district nurse or by your GP practice nurse if you can attend there. This will be arranged by the ward staff when you are discharged. The dressing usually loosens itself as the wound heals, otherwise it can be soaked off in the bath.  If the area is fully healed and dry, then it can be left exposed and you can massage in cream, such as E45 or Nivea, twice a day. Do not apply it to raw areas. 

Do I have to be careful about what clothing I wear?

Try not to wear articles of clothing that might make you itch or may be too tight. But if you find that some clothes do rub, a protective dry dressing should be worn.

Will my donor site look like normal skin when it is healed? 

You can expect your donor site to change colour.  At first it can look bright red, but over several months will become paler. Eventually it will blend in, but it may end up slightly paler than your surrounding skin. Be aware that, as with your skin graft, you should avoid strong sunlight, so you need to cover up or use total sun block. Advice should be taken from your doctor about lifting, stretching and returning to work. 

If you experience any problems immediately after your discharge from hospital, you can telephone Lynher Ward anytime on 01752 792274 for advice. If you experience any problems once you are under the care of the dressing clinic, please contact them on 01752 431024 (Monday-Friday, 0830-1630).

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