Donor Sites

What is a donor site?

This is the wound site left behind when the skin graft has been taken to cover a burn wound. The skin can be taken from various sites around the body. The area to be used will be discussed with you/your child, before the surgery.

How long does it take to heal?

A donor site usually takes 10 to 14 days to heal however this is dependent on a number of factors such as, donor site size, patient comorbidities, patient age, current medications etc.  A dressing will be put on in theatre, and this should stay in place until healed. Sometimes the dressings need changing because they have slipped, leaked or become dirty.

Will the donor site be painful?

Donor sites can be painful and taking pain relief will help. Initially after theatre some strong pain relief like morphine may be needed, but usually simple painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen are sufficient. Your nurse will ensure that pain relief medicines are given as needed.

Who will remove the dressing?

It is possible that younger children and those with a larger area that has been grafted may require the first dressing change under strong analgesia or general anaesthetic. After this the dressings can usually be changed using pain relief either on the ward or in burns dressing out patients.

What will the wound look like?

The donor site looks like a big graze. It will look red when first healed but this will fade over the weeks and months, and should result in a pale and soft scar. Very occasionally it becomes raised and pink or darker than the surrounding skin, however even the more prominent donor scars improve with time.

How do I look after the healed donor site?

Once healed you will need to moisturise the donor area as well as the grafted burn site.

Sun Screen advice:

It is very important that both the graft and donor sites are protected from the sun as it is new thinner skin without the normal skin protection. It is very important that the affected areas are covered using high factor (>SPF30) sun protection cream (for both UVA and UVB) and protective clothing. As the new skin may burn very quickly and blister. If it becomes tanned this can be a permanent tan that can be blotchy and irregular. It is important to protect all newly healed areas from sun damage for at least 2 years.

Pain and itching:

You/your child may still require medicines after discharge from the hospital to help with pain and itching. Medication will be discussed with you and will be given to you to take home.

Itching can be a major problem for some patients. Regular creaming and massage helps. Wearing loose clothes made from natural materials can also help. If the itching does not settle and becomes an on-going problem please speak to the doctor or nurse at the hospital. There are medicines that can help.

Scar Management:

Following skin grafts there will a varying degree of scarring. Once the wounds have healed you/your child will be referred to the scar management team who will treat the scars to produce the best outcome.

Treatment of scarring includes creaming and massage, silicone creams and gels and pressure garments. These will be discussed with you/your child when the wounds are healed. If you/your child are worried about the scarring and you have not been seen by the scar management team, please contact the dressing clinic or outreach team.

Help from the Psychologist

If you/your child are finding it difficult to come to terms with the treatment plan or with the scars then help is available. Please speak to your nurse or surgeon at the hospital who may be able to help with this. It may be that you 


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