New product revolutionising burns care
A new product is revolutionising treatment for burns patients following a highly successful trial at The Alfred
The product acts as an 'artificial skin' for patients with severe burns, preventing infection and allowing their wound to heal.
Heather Cleland, Director of the Victorian Adult Burns Service at The Alfred, said incredible advancements have been made in emergency medicine that allow patients to survive more severe burns than ever before. However, she said many patients suffered severe complications from infection and sepsis - which is where this product comes in.
NovoSorb, made in Port Melbourne by PolyNovo, was developed by the CSIRO after the Bali bombings. It is a biodegradable foam with a waterproof seal that is attached to the remaining skin surrounding the burn - usually with staples. The patient's own tissue grows into the foam and eventually, surgeons can peel off the waterproof cover and graft the patient's own skin over the top of the product, which biodegrades over time.
Miss Cleland said The Alfred sees the worst burns patients from across the state, and has the best specialists available to care for them. However, one in five patients with burns to more than 20 per cent of their body ultimately die as a result of their wounds.
“The problem of getting the patient’s wounds healed is still the main limiting factor,” Miss Cleland said.
“In the end, if we can’t close the wounds in a timely fashion, then time essentially runs out.”
The trial was run throughout several burns centres across Australia, with The Alfred enrolling 18 patients overall. So far, all patients have shown remarkable progress.
“We have a surgical algorithm for managing patients with extensive massive burns, and this product has made surgery a lot more predictable and reliable,” Miss Cleland said.
“It results in patients having fewer ongoing bacterial infections — when a wound can be closed, we don’t have painful dressing changes, so patients require a lot less pain relief.
“We can get them up and moving to start rehabilitation much earlier. It has significant overall effects.
"One of the reasons we think this product is going to be a real advance in burns care is that tissue grows into it very quickly. Human tissues have a real affinity for that open foam structure and once the tissue grows into it, it becomes firmly attached and it gets some resistance to infection. After about a month (though you can leave it longer if you don’t have the graft), you peel off the seal and you’ll have a nice bed of healthy tissue which is ingrown into the foam, which will quite reliably take split skin grafts."