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Burn victims like the wounded Belle Isle contractors in good hands at UMC, 'spray-on skin' at forefront of care

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Several contract workers were burned during a gas well explosion on Belle Isle along the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.

Of those wounded, three were reported taken to University Medical Center – the region's only Level I verified trauma and verified burn center.

According to Dr. Jeffrey Carter, Medical Director of the UMC Burn Center and professor of surgery at LSU Health-New Orleans, speed is of the essence when it comes to successful treatment of burn victims.

Delays in medical treatment can result in increased amounts of resuscitation, increased length of hospital stays, increased infection risks and increased kidney problems.

"It's important to realize here in Louisiana, we have a fair number of risks. About 85 percent of all hazardous waste travels through our port or rail here in New Orleans," said Dr. Carter.

"There are over 3,000 rigs, gas and pipeline areas here that are at risk along the gulf. When we have injuries that occur from industrial accidents, what we find is that the mortality is increased by about 20 percent if there is a delay of about two hours in transporting the patient to a center where they can get definitive care."

Dr. Carter says being an academic medical research center, UMC is able to offer the latest technology in the treatment of severe burns.

On the forefront of burn care is the use of RECELL's "spray-on skin" by Avita Medical, in which the doctors take a small portion of the patient's own skin, dissolve it and pull the stem cells, and then -apply it at the time of surgery.

Dr. Carter explained and demonstrated the use of RECELL during a Zoom interview with WGNO's Aaron S. Lee on Wednesday.

He also discussed how the use of artificial intelligence will soon revolutionize how burn victims are treated and how quickly they recover.

That video clip can be seen below:

According to Dr. Carter, half of his patients suffer burns to their hands and face as these are areas not covered, especially in the deep south. This can be worrisome to the victim after recovery as those are places people notice first when interacting with another person.

Not to mention, the face is extremely complex with the amount of movement and how it changes over time.

The use of RECELL on a burn victim's face is making skin grafts a thing of the past.

"A skin graft is like putting a piece of plywood on your roof when it has a hole in it," explained Dr. Carter. "It doesn't look the same. It doesn't act the same. It doesn't behave the same."

"While it's OK for some types of injuries," said Dr, Carter, "it's not necessarily the best thing."

Dr. Carter goes on to explain the benefits of using of the RECELL system and ultimately allowing burn patients to heal themselves using their own cells during recovery.

The FDA is considering RECELL for pediatric burns, with Dr. Carter serving as one of the clinical trial investigators.

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