Potential of Tissue-Engineered and Artificial Dermis Grafts for Fingertip Reconstruction

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2020 Nov;146(5):1082-1095. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000007258.


Background: Management of skin and soft-tissue defects of the fingertips is functionally and aesthetically important, but controversial, especially when bones are exposed. Recent advances in wound healing technology allow the use of cells or biological dermis. The authors studied the clinical efficacy of tissue-engineered dermis grafts and artificial dermis grafts versus immediate reconstructive procedures, such as the reverse digital artery island flap, in treating bone-exposed fingertip defects.

Methods: One hundred eighty-two patients with bone-exposed fingertip defects treated with tissue-engineered dermis grafts (n = 71), artificial dermis grafts (n = 23), or reverse digital artery island flaps (n = 88) were included in this retrospective cohort study. Surgical time, duration of hospitalization, total cost, success rate, healing time, sensory recovery, range of motion, scar quality, and patient satisfaction were compared.

Results: No tissue-engineered or artificial dermis graft exhibited graft rejection or failure, whereas there was one partial loss and one total loss after reverse digital artery island flap surgery. Tissue-engineered dermis grafts were superior in scar quality, and artificial dermis grafts had shorter surgical times and lower surgical costs; both groups demonstrated superior results in postoperative range of motion and sensory recovery in two-point discrimination tests and shorter hospitalization, compared with the reverse digital artery island flap group. The reverse digital artery island flap had shorter complete closure time and less postoperative tingling sensation. There were no differences in overall patient satisfaction among the groups.

Conclusions: Tissue-engineered and artificial dermis grafts may be promising alternatives for fingertip reconstruction. In particular, tissue-engineered dermis grafts may deliver superior functional results, including recovery of sensory discomfort and aesthetic results in terms of scar quality over artificial dermis grafts.

Clinical question/level of evidence: Therapeutic, III.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Finger Injuries / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin Transplantation*
  • Skin, Artificial*
  • Tissue Engineering*
  • Treatment Outcome