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“Spray Skin” Technology to Heal Severe Burns

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A Q&A with Dr. Lisa Rae

Posted by Temple Health

Dr. Rae performing burn surgery.

Temple Burn Center Director Dr. Lisa Rae is nationally respected in burn surgery and trauma and critical care. She and her team are now using a new spray-on skin cell technology — known as the RECELL® System — to treat severe burns. This new technology became commercially available in January 2019 and is being used by only a handful of centers across the country.

Q: How does traditional skin grafting heal severe burn victims?

Dr. Rae: Patients with second- and third-degree burns generally must undergo a surgical procedure. We remove the burned skin and underlying tissue, and replace it with a thin layer of healthy donor skin taken elsewhere from their own body. This skin-grafting approach is generally very effective at healing, but it can be painful. It also can leave scarring and discoloration.

Q: Are there alternatives to this traditional skin-grafting approach?

Dr. Rae: Yes, the FDA recently approved a new treatment option called the RECELL Autologous Cell Harvesting Device (RECELL System). It requires less donor skin to achieve healing of burn wounds in less time. Temple is one of only a few hospitals that offers it.

We believe this new technology can have a profound impact on our patients’ recovery, including reducing pain and scarring, improved joint mobility, faster healing and an improved long-term cosmetic result compared to traditional skin grafting.

Q: How does this new technology work?

Dr. Rae: We collect a small skin sample from the patient and immerse it in an enzyme solution to form a suspension liquid. This liquid includes keratinocytes, fibroblasts and melanocytes. These are types of cells which play a critical role in wound healing. The suspension is then sprayed onto the entire burn wound, providing a broad and even distribution of live cells across the entire wound.

A skin sample about the size of a credit card can be used to treat a wound that covers a patient’s entire back. The entire process can take as little as 30 minutes.

Q: How is this approach an advantage over traditional skin grafts?

Dr. Rae: The main advantages are faster healing, less pain, less chance of infection and decreased scarring — which improves joint mobility. Patients get out of the hospital faster, and the cosmetic results are impressive.

And we can take skin from a much smaller and thinner donor site, which is especially important for patients who need a larger amount of healthy skin for grafting.

Q: Is this approach best suited for specific kinds of burns?

Dr. Rae: It can be used on any part of the body, for any type of burn. We reserve it for patients with burns on 20% or more of their body surface area, or for a deep burn on the face or hands that otherwise could potentially result in significant scarring.

Q: What does it mean to Temple to be able to offer emerging technologies like spray-on skin?

Dr. Rae: The Temple Burn Center has been the leading regional burn center for 20 years. We currently see the majority of burn patients in this region.

New advancements like this spray-on skin technology really do put us at the forefront of best practices. We are specialty-trained specifically for burn care — from a surgical standpoint, as well as nursing, pain management, rehabilitation and outpatient services.

As the medical director, I spend time lecturing and speaking to regional hospitals, emergency room departments, their general surgeons, the life flight nurses, paramedics and EMTs who come in contact with burn patients and make sure that their care is optimal and up to date.

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