Safdarjung innovation offers quicker healing of bad burns

More and more patients at Safdarjung Hospital are opting for a splint-free treatment of ‘contractures’, the shortening and hardening of muscles and other tissues after severe burns.

The technique, devised by a plastic surgeon at the hospital, enables patients to recover early from contractures and avoid the cumbersome process of using splints for up to six months.

Buoyed by the success and acceptance of the method, the burns and plastic surgery unit of the hospital is organising a workshop next week, where the technique will be imparted to plastic surgeons at other government hospitals in the capital. The facility is currently available only at this government-run hospital.

The conventional method of treatment, for decades, has been to separate and straighten the two rigid body parts which get deformed and join each other due to the burns. After separating them, skin is transplanted on the wound.

“However, the skin grafted at the centre of the joint, has a tendency to contract again. To avoid this contraction, a splint is used,” said plastic surgeon Dr Vishwa Prakash who devised this method.

However, wearing a splint continuously for months is a difficult and an uncomfortable process. “Despite the need to wear the splints throughout the period, patients generally do not wear it for all 24 hours of the day,” he said.

His no-splint method involves making an incision each on the two sides of the joints, instead of at the centre. Skin is then grafted at the point of the incisions. “We then allow the grafts on the two sides of the joint to contract in the opposite direction. This contraction of the graft helps in pulling the two body parts away from each other permanently, which ultimately solves the problem,” he said.

While the method was devised in 2001, and published in US-based Plastic Reconstructive Surgery Journal, it is only of late that patients have started accepting and opting for it. The surgeon has performed around 300 such surgeries so far. “Now, two-three such procedures are performed at the hospital daily,” he said.  The wound, meanwhile, takes only around 15 days to heal, enabling a person with knee or elbow contracture to begin work much earlier.

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