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Skin donation: Awareness is need of the hour

Friday, July 06, 2018
By Prachi Sonawane

We are mostly aware of blood, organ, cadaver and eye donations, but lack awareness about skin donation. Generally, doctors use the healthy skin of the patient by grafting it and reusing it through plastic surgery. However, this is a delayed recovery process. In today's advanced infrastructure, skin banks are a boon, as patients do not require a match in blood group and the burn victims can be saved if a barrier is created by grafting newskin donated as 'allografts'. Donating skin provides a better quality of life for people suffering from severe burns and injuries. The donated skin is processed and stored in a skin bank before transplantation. A skin bank is similar to an eye bank.

Masina Hospital in Byculla had started with its skin bank in October 2017. The initiative by the hospital is unique and has the 'Make in India' spirit because the entire procedure, from harvesting to storage, is carried out inhouse by the department and their own experts. The technical partner for this concept of sink donation is Dr Caroline Mathen, who runs OCT Therapies and Research Pvt. Ltd. along with the Hospital and plastic surgery and burn specialistsDr Suhas Abhyankar and Dr. Arvind Vartak. The Masina Hospital has one of the three skin banks in Mumbai and is the only one in South Mumbai. In a short span of 6 months it has procured skin from more than 20 cadavers and almost half the procured skin has been utilised satisfactorily.

“Awareness about skin donation is the need of the hour in order to resolve one of the most critical issues in medicine. Skin banks are a concept where the skin can be harvested within 6-7 hours of death, just as in eye donation, with due permission of the family or relatives,” said Dr Vispi Jokhi,Medical Director, Masina Hospital.

Only 1/8th the of the total thickness of skin is taken, using a special instrument called a Dermatome. This translates to around 30-35 per cent surface area of the skin, which is then processed and stored at minus 80 degrees in a special storage freezer. Any person devoid of HIV, Hepatitis B or C and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), septicemia, skin cancers or skin diseases can donate skin.

In the procedure of eye transplantation, a cornea is replaced; similarly in skin transplantation, the skin harvested is used on the patient as a stopgap measure to cover the wound. After having covered the wound, it forms a layer of the patient's own skin. Any skin type can be used for this.

The skin is used for burns patients, skin loss, diabetic non-healing ulcers, etc., wherein it acts as an excellent biological dressing that prevents protein and body fluid loss, provides relief from pain, mechanical protection, and also helps in early recovery, reducing mortality and morbidity.

The Masina Hospital is issuing 15 sq cm of skin grafts, considered 1 per cent of the body surface area, at subsidised rates of Rs 1000 per strip. The skin bank has also tied up with the Rotary Club of Bombay and the Sophie North Charitable Trust, whereby if a patient requires skin grafts then a specified number of grafts are provided free of cost.

“Our aim is to make people and doctors aware about skin donation and the availability of skin grafts,” Dr Vispi Jokhi noted.

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