Sophisticated Treatments for Serious Burns
Lab-grown skin and other advances make therapies more effective and less traumatic
Very sophisticated treatments that help to regenerate the skin and drastically reduce recovery time are now available for serious burns.
Advances in bioengineering and cell culturing techniques have allowed scientists
to grow replacement skin based on a patient’s own tissues. Such material allows
more natural healing, a greater return to function, and less scarring than standard
wound dressings, expresses the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a branch of
the Department of Health and Human Services of the United States.
The patient’s lab-grown skin is particularly useful in massive burn
cases. When the patient has burns over 80 - 90% of the body, there is not enough healthy
skin for grafting. What we do then is take some of that healthy tissue and send it to a
specialty laboratory where those cells are cultivated and make enough tissue with which
we can cover all the burned areas, regardless of how extensive they may be,
comments Dr. Carlos Medina, Plastic Surgeon at the Burn Center of Kendall Regional
Medical Center, in Miami, Florida.
The specialist explains that the lab-grown skin is not as strong as natural skin, but it is strong enough to fulfill the main function of the skin, which is to protect the internal tissues. Since it is the patient’s own skin, there is no risk of the body rejecting it; therefore, the patient does not have to take anti-rejection medications, which lower the immune system. Lab-grown skin is so natural that over time, it takes on the patient’s natural skin color.
There are advances at other levels as well.
We now apply more advanced protocols
to resuscitate critical patients with extensive burns. The type of solution given to
the patients has changed, as has the way the ventilators (respirators) are managed, and
the applied antibiotic strategy. Severally burned individuals now have a higher rate of
Skin substitutes, such as cadaver skin and pigskin, which are currently used to treat
serious burns, are also great advances.
We usually use these temporarily so that
the wound heals on its own in two or three weeks, or as a preparation to implant the
patient’s own skin. These substitutes considerably reduce pain during the healing
Likewise, the bandages now being used are also much better. They no longer need to be
changed daily, but rather weekly, which is more comfortable for the patient.
when changing the bandages the wound must to be scraped, which is painful and
traumatizes the patient. It’s wonderful to rely on technology that allows
applying the bandages that can be changed weekly, which is significantly advantageous
for children. Approximately 30% of the burn patients we treat are children. In
addition, some of these bandages have an antibiotic coating which prevents infection,
Through telemedicine we can see patients who are in other countries, receive them
here for treatments using highly advanced technology, or even travel on humanitarian
missions during catastrophic situations, says Dr. Fred Mullins, Medical Director
of the Burn Center at Kendall Regional Medical Center.
According to the NIH, a burn is damage to your body's tissues caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, sunlight or radiation. Scalds from hot liquids and steam, building fires and flammable liquids and gases are the most common causes of burns.
There are three types of burns. First-degree burns damage only the outer layer of skin. Second-degree burns damage the outer layer and the layer underneath. Third-degree burns damage or destroy the deepest layer of skin and tissues underneath.
Burns can cause swelling, blistering, scarring and, in serious cases, shock and even death. They also can lead to infections because they damage your skin's protective barrier. Antibiotic creams can prevent or treat infections. After a third-degree burn, you need skin or synthetic grafts to cover exposed tissue and encourage new skin to grow. First- and second-degree burns usually heal without grafts.
The NIH itself expresses that in the mid-1970s, about 9,000 people in the United States died each year from burn injuries. People whose burns covered more than 20 percent of their bodies almost always died. Because facilities specializing in the treatment of burns or trauma were rare, most people with these injuries were treated in regular hospitals. Those who survived the initial burn or traumatic injury were likely to die from infection or other complications, such as multiple organ dysfunction syndrome, acute respiratory distress syndrome, or sepsis.
Little was known about the myriad biochemical changes that occur throughout the
body in response to burns and traumatic injuries — including in organs distant from, and
seemingly unconnected to, the site of injury, adds the NIH and states that today,
the number of burn fatalities in the United States has declined dramatically, to about
3,800 a year. Now, people with burns covering 90 percent of their bodies can survive,
although they often have permanent impairments. More than 50 percent of burn patients
are treated in specialized burn centers.
Kendall Regional Medical Center offers a full range of burn services from outpatient burn care to the most advanced level of inpatient critical care for infants, adolescents, and adults. The Burn Center focuses on acute and reconstructive burn care; skin and soft tissue trauma and infection; and complex hand injury treatment. Treatment is available 24 hours a day and the Burn Center is staffed by specially trained burn surgeons, burn nurses, and a team of ancillary staff dedicated to providing high quality and compassionate care. Kendall Regional Medical Center is proud to have partnered with Burn Centers of Florida, Inc. in providing Burn Care Services to patients from the United States, Central America, and the Caribbean.