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February 11, 2011

Skin Bank and Third Degree Burns

The skin as any other organ in the body can be damaged like in second and third degree burns. If the damage is big enough the body can't replace the skin. There are alternative ways to cover the injured area and one of the methods used is allograft which is skin taken from another human being and given it to another. One of the major traumas the skin is exposed to is burns and in severe burns one of the methods used to replace skin is using allograft.

Skin banks are present in many parts of the world. They use skin from donor people after their death who provided consent to donate their skin. Usually skin banks are located near burn centers or as part of the hospital that contains the burn center.

Donors while they are alive sign a donation form with the presence of witnesses allowing their skin to be donated after their death. Anyone can be a donor and by being a donor this will not affect the person in any way regarding the care and treatment that he/she is receiving while they are alive.

Screening of the donor:

Before taking the skin, screening is done to make sure that there isn't any reason that may lead to rejection the donor. A full accurate medical and social history is taken associated with a complete physical exam of the cadaver to make sure that there isn't any reason that would prevent the use of the skin.

Screening for infection includes:

  • Screening for HIV.
  • Screening for hepatitis B.
  • Screening for hepatitis C.
  • Human T-cell lymphotropic virus types I (HTLV 1).
The skin is collected as soon as possible and if it's delayed for any reason the body is kept refrigerated and the skin is collected within a certain time. The skin is retrieved in the morgue under aseptic conditions (sterile). Usually the skin is taken from the upper calves, thighs, hips and torso. When the skin is in the skin bank, cultures are obtained for fungi, yeast, aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.

Causes that lead to the skin being unsuitable for transplantation may include:

  • Acute burn injury.
  • Malignancy of the skin.
  • Infections of the skin.
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals.
  • Recent chemo or radiotherapy.
  • Autoimmune disease affecting the integrity of the skin
  • Collagen vascular disease affecting skin integrity.
  • Extensive trauma to the skin.
  • Severe dermatitis.
This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.