A randomized controlled trial evaluating the effect of epithelial removal on free soft tissue autograft healing

Julia A. Lacy, Archontia A. Palaiologou, Georgios A. Kotsakis, David E. Deas, Anibal Diogenes, Brian L. Mealey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The purpose of this study is to determine if there is a difference in dimensional change of a free soft tissue autograft (FSTA) with epithelium compared to without epithelium. The secondary aim is to determine the patient and professional evaluation of color match and graft texture between the two groups. Methods: Patients with ≤2 mm keratinized tissue indicated for a FSTA were randomly assigned to control group (FSTA with epithelium) or test group (de-epithelialized FSTA). The vertical and horizontal measurements of the grafts were taken at surgery, and 1, 3, and 6 months postoperatively. Patients were asked to evaluate the color match at each postoperative time point on a 21-step Numeric Rating Scale (NRS-21). Professional assessment of color match and graft texture were evaluated on images at the same time points. Results: Forty-six patients and 55 grafts were included in the study. For change in graft height, width, and area, there were no significant differences between the treatment groups at any time point. Graft height and area in both groups decreased significantly from baseline to month 1 (p <.001), but no other difference was significant over time. When patients and professionals used the NRS-21 for evaluation of color match between the graft site and the surrounding soft tissue, there was no significant difference between the treatment groups. Similarly, evaluation of texture match on color images and black-and-white images revealed no significant differences between or within groups. Conclusion: De-epithelialized FSTA showed no difference in dimensional change or color and texture match compared to FSTA with epithelium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1397-1404
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of periodontology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • autografts
  • autologous transplantation
  • free tissue flaps
  • gingiva
  • gingival recession

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Periodontics


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