Biologic mechanisms by which skin grafts become revascularized after transplantation are poorly understood. To investigate graft revascularization, we examined the pattern of capillary growth in full‐thickness skin grafts at serial time points. Full‐thickness skin (2 × 2 cm) was excised to muscle fascia from the bilateral hind limbs of adult male Lewis rats. The graft/wound base boundary was identified by placement of a polypropylene mesh on the wound beneath the graft. Excised skin was replaced in its original orientation and secured with silk sutures tied over a gauze bolster dressing. After 3, 5, 7, and 10 days, animals were killed, and their aortas were cannulated and infused with an acrylic polymer to generate vascular casts. Grafts were excised, tissues were digested, and casts were examined with the use of scanning electron microscopy. Transmission electron microscopy was performed on tissues infused with the acrylic polymer that were not digested. At day 3, an immature lobular pattern was observed extending from the neovascular plexi on the graft side of the polypropylene mesh. At day 5, defined vessels with lobular ends occurred with high frequency. At day 7, the number of observed lobular structures was greatly reduced, and high frequencies of depressions in acrylic casts suggested protrusion of endothelial cell nuclei. By day 10, lobular structures were rare, well‐defined microvascular plexi were contiguous with larger vessels, and depressions from endothelial cell nuclei appeared more shallow and less frequent. These findings suggest that (1) an immature lobular pattern representing either capillary outgrowth or extracapillary leakage occurs at day 3; (2) these immature lobules decrease, and more discrete capillaries increase by day 5; (3) vascular integrity is reestablished by day 7; (4) vascular plexi has regained full continuity, and there are suggestions that endothelial cell proliferation has subsided by day 10.
ASJC Scopus subject areas