All patients suffered burns requiring repair according to Peter Watson, chief medical officer at Counties Manakau Health.
All patients suffered burns requiring repair according to Peter Watson, chief medical officer at Counties Manakau Health.

Aussies donate skin for volcano survivors

AUSTRALIA has sent 20,000 square centimetres of allograft skin to help survivors of the White Island volcanic eruption that has left eight Australians dead.

Another 1.2 million square centimetres shipped from the United States will arrive on Friday to treat the deep-tissue burns suffered by those still clinging to life.

The Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria and the Organ and Tissue donation service in Sydney both sent 10,000 square centimetres each. The Queensland Skin Culture Centre remains on standby to also send some.

A number of the victims, who were wearing summer clothing when they toured the active volcano on Monday, have burns to up to 80 per cent of their bodies.

Many also ingested ash and volcanic gases, resulting in horrific injuries to their lungs and airways, leaving them unable to talk.

All patients suffered burns requiring repair according to Peter Watson, chief medical officer at Counties Manakau Health.

"We currently have supply but are urgently sourcing additional supplies to meet the demand addressing temporary skin grafts," he said.

The allograft skin is surgically grafted over the burns - without which many would have no chance of survival.

It is applied to the wounds after dead tissue is removed and stapled over the burn.

"The layers that we provide are essentially the epidermis which is the top layer of skin and a small lawyer of dermis underneath the skin," said Dr Stefan Poniatowski, head of the Donor Tissue Bank of Victoria.

"The immune system of the recipient will reject the epidermis layer, but the dermis will actually incorporate and provide a nice healthy wound bed for the patients' own skin to be grown or applied over the top.

"The allograft skin will be rejected, but it becomes a temporary biological dressing."

The skin is collected from deceased donors, with a layer the thickness of a sunburn peel taken from the legs and back.

The allograft skin is stored in liquid nitrogen and safely kept at ultra-low temperatures for up to five years.

There are only three skin banks in Australia, and the New Zealand donation has had a "significant impact" on available supplies.

Dr Poniatowski said all three centres were preparing more allograft stock for release with the demand to increase as patients are repatriated to Australia where they could face years of treatment.

Major events have tested skin stockpiles in the past, particularly in the Bali bombings in 2002, with banks completely wiped out by Victoria's Black Saturday fires in 2009.



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