Medical professionals have made major strides in the way burns are treated, helping patients' burns heal faster.
Skin Substitutes and Cultured Skin
An important advance in the treatment of thermal injury was the introduction of cultured skin and skin substitutes, such as Biobrane®, first used at the University in 1979, and Integra®, a new permanent skin substitute.
Peak Burn Care Center clinicians also have been at the forefront of medical facilities that use cultured skin, having begun culturing skin in the mid-1980s. The process involves growing a patient's skin in the laboratory and expanding it from a small biopsy to 10,000 times its normal size. Cultured skin became widely available in the early 1990s.
Although skin substitutes have improved outcomes for burn patients, research into improved methods of caring for burn patients continues. Real skin has nerve endings, hair follicles and sweat glands, none of which science can yet duplicate.
Although there are many new products and techniques available, a full thickness burn often requires autografting, the transplanting of the patient's own unburned skin to the area of deep burn. Except for burns that are no larger than a quarter, full thickness burns usually require a skin graft to heal. The patient is taken to the operating room where all the dead tissue is surgically removed. Skin is taken from an unburned or healed part of the person's body and grafted to the burn. In three to four days, this grafted skin adheres to the area and becomes the person's permanent skin. The donor site (where the skin was harvested from) is treated and heals within seven to 14 days.
Nutritional Support for Burn Patients
Nutrition is another area in which significant advances have been made in the care of burn patients. For the past 10 years, clinicians have followed the approach of internally feeding the burn patient immediately after arrival. A burn injury greatly taxes the patient's body. The body responds by becoming hypermetabolic - putting its processes into overdrive -- until the wound is covered. This extraordinary demand is met by feeding burn patients as much as two to three times their normal calorie intake.