Vitiligo can be treated with surgical approaches, like skin or cellular grafts. The idea is that the top skin layer of the white spots is removed, and healthy pigment cells (melanocytes) from another part of the body are transplanted there.
After a few months, the transplanted melanocytes start working to make pigment, which deposits in the surrounding skin and the white spots disappear. This can be a very effective treatment for some patients, and many times the standard vitiligo treatments
However, patients with segmental vitiligo, where the disease is limited to only one side of the body, appear to be excellent candidates for this procedure. These patients have a good outcome 80-95% of the time, and they usually don’t require any more treatments. This may be one case when vitiligo may be cured, a word that we don’t use too often for patients with vitiligo. There are a number of ways to transplant healthy melanocytes in patients with stable vitiligo, including:
- Punch grafts (small plugs of skin are transplanted to holes created in the white spots)
- Split thickness skin grafts (larger pieces of skin are transplanted to white spots where the skin has been removed)
- Blister grafts (blister roofs from normal skin are transplanted to white spots where other blister roofs were removed)
- Cellular grafts (melanocytes and other skin cells from normal skin are transplanted to white spots where the top layer has been removed by dermabrasion or laser treatment)