Background: Harvesting split skin grafts in rodents has proven to be challenging, as the presence of panniculus carnosus tissue in rodent skin causes high flexibility and mobility of the upper skin layer. Thus, fixation is indispensable for granting precise manipulation during the grafting process. All techniques established in the literature achieve stability by dissecting a subcutaneous pocket beneath the panniculus carnosus. In this article, the authors present a method that excludes inflicting additional wounds other than that to the donor site but takes advantage of the elasticity of rat skin.
Methods: A customized sturdy support plate is held laterally beside the skin area where the split skin is to be cut. The skin is mobilized, pulled over the support plate, and fixed with the nondominant hand on the bottom of the device. Using a dermatome, the split skin graft is cut on the metal plate, which provides a flat surface to permit a precise harvesting process.
Results: A total of 208 split skin grafts were harvested, of which nine had to be rejected. The average time to perform a split skin graft on one animal, not considering preparation time, was 2 minutes. All of the harvested grafts were 2 × 2.5 cm (0.79 × 0.98 inch), with a mean thickness of 0.3 mm. Reharvesting could be performed on postoperative day 7.
Conclusions: Using this new standardized method, grafts of equal size and thickness can be obtained rapidly. It is cheap and highly reproducible and can be carried out by a single surgeon. It provides a rapid healing process with fewer complications and immensely reduced stress for the animals.