29 February 2012
By Sumitra Deb Roy
Even today, acid burn wounds remain the trickiest of all burn injuries to tackle because the chemicals penetrate deep into the skin injuring other organs. Despite the technology available, a victim may still have to undergo anywhere between three to 20 surgeries, but still not be able to regain functionality of the damaged organs. Most victims in India, however, are unable to fork out the lakhs of rupees required for repeated—and expensive–—surgeries, and are often forced to “live with the deformities,” say doctors.
“There’s no ignoring the fact that financial constraints are a major hurdle in the healing process, It can drain a family of all its monetary resources,” said a doctor.
Also, the deformities and disfigurement caused by the deep burns add to the victim’s woes.
In the recent years, certain medical advancements have increased the chances of healing as well as survival for the victims. Plastic surgeon Dr Sunil Keswani said that the advent of artificial skin called ‘Integra’ has significantly contributed to the management of burn victims. “The artificial skin helps to cover the wound and later do the grafting. It helps the wound heal faster and with lesser chances of getting infected,” he said, adding that better antibiotics are also now available in the Indian market.
Though labelled as one of the best innovations for burn injury, artificial skin is also very expensive, beyond the reach of most families. A patch of artificial skin slightly smaller than the size of a bread slice could cost up to a lakh.
Besides artificial skin, associate professor of department of surgery at the JJ Hospital, Dr Rajat Kapoor, said that epithelial tissues can now be grown in the laboratories. This way, a small patch of skin can be grown into multiple sheets of skin measuring about 10x4cm. “It takes two to three weeks, but the results are remarkable,” he added.
In India, burn victims have a tough time because there are very few cadaver skin donations. But, the scenario is fast changing. Former head of Sion Hospital’s surgery department Dr Madhuri Gore said that it is only recently that the hospital’s skin bank has started getting a good response through cadaver donation. The skin bank was conceptualised 11 years ago, but for many years we received only about five to six donations annually.