PROVO — A new option is available for people with chronic wounds that won't heal, and it doesn't involve surgery.
People with poor circulation, diabetes or large wounds often need a skin graft to help them heal. Now a new procedure, which doctors say is not any worse than ripping a Band-Aid off a thigh, can help skin to grow.
Nena Lundgreen was the first patient to undergo the new treatment at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo.
Lundgreen, a BYU graduate student, has been recovering since April after a climbing accident in Rock Canyon nearly claimed her left foot. A boulder three times the size of her body came down on the foot, crushing her toes.
"There were more fractures than anyone wanted to tell me," Lundgreen said.
Two of her toes had to be amputated, and a large open wound would not heal. Lundgreen said doctors told her it would take two years to heal without a skin graft.
However, doctors tried a new option of "epidermal skin graft harvesting" to treat Lundgreen.
Unlike traditional grafts, which slice a patch of skin and then stretch it out over the wound, this procedure uses suction and heat to remove skin cells that are then transferred to the wound on a transparent film.
"This takes just a thinner layer of the epidermis, which is essentially the dead outer layer of the skin that can be laid over the graft and leaves the donor site over the thigh with little to no scarring and little to no pain at all," said Dr. Marc Robins of the Wound Care Center at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
The skin cells placed on the wound start to grow within a week — all without surgery.
Lundgreen said the treatment was a success.
"The best part is there was no scarring from the harvest site, because all the other traditional types of skin grafts, they leave big horrible scars from the donor site," she said. "You can't hardly even see the mark on my leg at all."
The medical center in Provo has been using this method for the past couple of months and have treated eight patients so far. A few other hospitals in Utah are also trying the method, and reports indicate that the results are promising.