Do you know that you can give burn victims better quality of life even after you have kicked the bucket? The way you can help burn victims is by donating your skin when you are alive and even after you are dead. How can you do this? What is skin donation about? Why is it important? Can you donate skin while alive? Are there any contradictions?
This article discusses everything you need to know about skin donation. It answers several questions about the topic.
What is Skin Donation?
Skin donation is the donation of skin (from healthy or dead people) to assist others with skin problems. Although it has been practiced for a while now, skin donation isn’t a very popular concept which is wrong. Skin donation is meant to provide assistance to burns victims by helping to improve their quality of life.
The procedure can also help individuals who have suffered severe skin injuries apart from burns. Skin Donation is relatively a newer concept when compared to other forms of organ donation. However, there are many reasons why this procedure is the ideal choice than other previous types of organ donation. Firstly, skin donation is something that anyone can do even after they have died, which can ultimately save the lives of many people around the world and give them a better quality of life.
Even though organ donation can only be achieved after the donor has been declared brain dead, skin donation is better because skin can be donated even after cardiac death. Cardiac death occurs when the heart has stopped functioning or pumping blood. While brain death, on the other hand, is when the brain loses its function or dies but the donor or deceased individual keeps breathing on life support (with the aid of a ventilator), and the organs including the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver are kept alive artificially and extracted as donor organs.
Donating your organs can only happen in a hospital under unique conditions. The deceased can donate their organs in the event that they are brain dead. While a deceased individual can donate their skin even after they suffer cardiac death. So you can see why skin donation is a unique procedure and far easier to achieve.
Who Will Need a Skin Donation?
Donated skin is primarily used to treat burn victims or people with serious skin injuries. A burn wound is arguably one of the most devastating wounds. It can change the life of the survivors physically, socially, psychologically, and economically. Skin donation is used for early burn wound closure which is critical to the survival of patients who have suffered large burn wounds. When a burn wound is infected (often leading to systemic sepsis), it leads to the death of the patient. In fact, burn wound infection or sepsis is primarily the major cause of death in patients with burn injuries.
In case of burns, the skin (which is the main protective barrier for the body) is destroyed. When this happens, the body is exposed to pathogens. If the burnt part of the skin is not covered immediately with some skin substitutes, the patient will be prone to fluid loss, infection, and ultimately death. In the case of a smaller burn percentage (when a lesser part of the body surface is burnt), the skin from the unburnt part of the patient is removed and put on the burnt area to cover it up. However, when the burn percentage is up to 40 to 50 percent of the total body surface, the patient’s own skin won’t be available to cover over the burnt area. In that scenario, the patient will need some skin substitutes.
Skin is arguably the ideal substitute for skin. Which is why donated skin after death is the most realistic and cheapest substitute for burn wounds compared to the artificial skin substitutes available. Donor skin may be a temporary dressing. However, it is essential because it helps the patient’s own skin regenerate. About 80 percent of such patients are typically saved if there is enough donor skin in the skin bank (which inevitably emphasizes the need for skin donation). When you donate skin to the skin bank, you are saving a life. And the fact that you can donate skin even after death makes this a unique opportunity to help other people.
How Does Donated Skin Help a Burns Patient?
Here are a few ways that this can happen:
- Donated skin controls loss of fluid, heat and protein from the body.
- It helps to prevent the entry of infectious agents.
- It saves the life of the patient.
- It relieves pain.
Why is Skin Donation Important?
The skin is the single largest human organ. It is basically a shield that protects the body from heat and cold. It can also protect your body from environmental impacts like chemicals, UV-radiation, and pathogens. Normally, the skin is designed to mend itself from wear and tear. However, when it gets damaged or badly burned, it will be unable to repair itself. For patients with life-threatening burn injuries, one way that healing can be promoted healing is by covering up the wound with allografts, which is known as skin from a donor. Skin donation is important because it can save the lives of thousands of people. It can offer these individuals a better quality of life after they have suffered a catastrophic event (a burn wound).
How Can You Donate Skin?
Most people fail to realize that they can donate skin in the same way as corneas, organs, and tissues when they kick the bucket. The major cities around the world have skin banks, a place where the donated skin is properly preserved and stored. The skin is made available to burn victims whenever necessary. Before knowing how the procedure is done, below three points to consider:
- Donated skin can be frozen and stored for approximately five years.
- Skin can only be harvested from the back, legs, and thighs. It does not disfigure the body of the donor in any way (since only a thin layer of skin is harvested from the legs, thighs, and back).
- You can donate skin within 6 hours of cardiac death.
Who Can Be a Skin Donor?
Yes, any individual can be a skin donor no matter their sex or blood group. In fact, the minimum age to be qualified to donate skin should be 18 years of age. However, there isn’t any upper age limit. People who have HIV (or Aids) & Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, and STD’S, or generalized infections & Septicemia of (including Pneumonia, and T.B,), any skin infection, evidence of skin cancer, and other kinds of malignancy cannot donate skin. Before the skin is harvested, a blood sample is taken from the deceased or donor and tested for HIV, Hepatitis and viral markers at the skin bank.
Facts About Skin Donation
Below are a few more facts about skin donation that you may not know:
- There is no need to worry about bleeding or body disfigurement when you decide to donate skin to the skin bank.
- There is no need for a matching requirement for skin grafting.
- The skin donation processing charges for receiving cadaveric skin is relatively low when compared to the commercially available synthetic substitute skin options.
- You do not have to pay any funds to the donation team if you decide to give part of your skin (it is essential to note that buying and selling of organs are considered illegal around the world).
- When it comes to skin donation, there is no need for blood, skin color or age to be matched before the procedure can be carried out. Hence, any individual’s skin can easily be transplanted to a patient with skin issues.
- You will need to produce a death certificate as well as its photocopy before you can donate skin (these documents will be carefully evaluated by the team of medical professionals before the procedure gets on the way).
- There isn’t any bleeding from the part where the skin is usually harvested from. There won’t even be any disfigurement on the body after the procedure.
- After the procedure, the team of doctors will bandage the parts where the skin was taken away from in a proper way.