The Skinny on Sion Hospital's Skin Bank
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28 April 2010
By Santosh Andhale
The facility, the first of its kind in the country, completes 10 years today, but still gets only a fifth of the donors it needs to save the lives of hundreds of burns victims
Twenty–two–year–old Rupali Shevale is all praise for the skin bank at Sion hospital. The Andheri resident was admitted to the hospital last month with 50 per cent burns and her chances of survival were slim, but thanks to an emergency graft surgery, doctors were able to save her.
But not all burns victims are as fortunate as Rupali, as the bank –which is the first in the country and completes 10 years today –faces gross shortage of donors.
Donating skin is a lot like pledging your eyes, and can be done by just about anyone. However, Dr Madhuri Gore, who heads the surgery department and is in charge of the skin bank, said, “At present, we get around 70 skin donations a year. While this is better than before, we need at least 350 to meet our demand. Few are aware of our existence, leading to the shortage of donors.”
This also means that there is little scope for patients from other hospitals to benefit from the facility. “In the last 10 years, we have given skin to private patients only nine times,” explained a bank official.
While there is a new bank in Navi Mumbai, it gets only three–four donations per year.
How it is Done
“I am very thankful to the skin bank. I appeal to everybody to donate their skin. It can help save so many people like me who suffer severe burns,”
Skin donation is done under the Bombay Anatomy Act. Donor skin heals burn injuries, eases pain and prevents infection by preventing loss of blood. It is especially helpful for severe burns patients. With conventional dressing, wounds take time to heal and there is an increased risk of infection, which can prove fatal.
Explaining the procedure, Dr Gore said, “The skin we paste on the wound is not permanent; it is used to stop blood and protein loss. After around four weeks, it is naturally replaced as new skin grows.”
Commenting on Rupali’s case, she said, “Rupali was critical but the grafting helped her live. Her wounds have already begun healing and new skin is gradually replacing the grafted one.” She also recounted how they had once successfully treated a patient with 85 per cent burns.
Preserving The Skin
Before skin from a donor is used, the cadaver is tested for HIV and other contagious diseases to ensure safety.
From one cadaver, the bank can get 1,350 sq cm of skin. The amount of skin needed is dependent on the extent of burns.
Before grafting, the skin needs to be preserved at minus 70 degrees Celsius. It is stored in the freezer using preservatives called cryo–protectants for three to six months.