BENGALURU: Plastic surgeons at St John’s Hospital in Bengaluru have sought skin for grafting for the 24-year-old acid attack victim, from the skin bank at Victoria Hospital. It is the first such bank in Karnataka and the second largest in the country.
While skin donation is not too well known, families of as many as 139 deceased people have donated skin of their kin to the skin bank, ever since it began six years ago. Yet, while the tertiary care burns unit at Victoria Hospital alone gets an average of five to six patients with second and third-degree burns per day, the gap between demand and donation is huge, as they use skin from their bank for their own patients, and there are also many requests from other hospitals.
India records over 80 lakh burns cases annually, with around 1.4 lakh deaths every year, and 4 lakh suffering from disabilities. As many as 70 per cent of cases admitted are a result of kitchen or workplace-related accidents, besides suicide and homicide attempts. Yet, there are only 16 skin banks in the country and two in Karnataka, including one at Victoria Hospital and the other at KLES in Belagavi, according to Professor, Head of Unit, department of plastic surgery, Dr Smitha S Segu.
Dr Smitha explained that the skin bank collects skin from eligible deceased donors, processes, preserves and distributes it as per international protocol. Skin can be retrieved from healthy deceased donors aged 18 years onwards, who die of natural causes. It can be harvested from donors within six hours after death, in a hospital or at home, or in the mortuary, by an expert team. It is transferred to the lab/skin bank, where it is processed and stored in freezers. No matching is required, but the donor’s blood sample is collected to check for serology, and the skin is cultured to ensure there is no bacterial growth, she said.
The donor skin is used as an allograft in partial thickness, second and third-degree deep thermal burns, raw areas due to accidents, large wounds due to diabetes and infection, large pressure sores and others, she added. It helps to reduce loss of fluids from the burnt area, pain, and rate of infection and thus, cuts down the length of hospital stay, and even reduces mortality. If there is no skin available, experts try methods like skin substitutes which are expensive, Dr Smitha said.