Although dermal substitution is a main topic of current wound healing research, there is a paucity of clinical trials with a long-term clinical and histopathological evaluation. A clinical trial was conducted to perform an intra-individual comparison of conventional treatment (split-thickness autograft) to a collagen/elastin dermal substitute in combination with an autograft. Promising results with this substitute were obtained with respect to dermal organisation and scar elasticity in animal studies and clinical trials with a short-term follow-up. Twenty-nine of the 42 pairs of the burn wounds and 28 of the 44 pairs of the scar reconstructions enrolled in the study were biopsied after 1 year. Promising but not statistically significant differences were found between substituted groups and control groups for epidermal thickness, basement membrane maturation, rete ridges (P=0.055), fibroblasts, myofibroblasts, inflammatory cells, vessels and extracellular matrix maturation. An objective and accurate technique, Fourier analysis, was used to evaluate collagen bundle orientation and packing. However, no statistically significant differences were obtained for these parameters. This microscopic evaluation provided no convincing evidence for a long-term effectiveness of a dermal substitute despite promising data over a short-term in in vitro and in vivo studies with the same material.