Donations at city's skin bank at all-time low

Donations at skin bank at all-time low

The stocks here have dropped to a third of what it used to be before the pandemic

Earlier, 15,000-20,000 sq cm of skin graft would be available. The number has now dropped to 5,000 sq cm.

Skin donation, much like organ donations, has taken a hit and is at an all-time low in Bengaluru. The city’s skin bank, critical to treat burn surgeries, usually has around 15,000 to 20,000 sq cm of skin graft available. It now has just 5,000 sq cm, enough to treat just one to two patients.

Dr Ramesha K T, head of the department of plastic surgery, Victoria Hospital, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute, says the skin bank has received more than 100 donations since its inception.

Donations come from brain-dead patients whose organs are harvested, and from cadavers. In the latter case, skin is accepted within six hours of death. “We used to have about 35 donors a year but during the Covid-19 period, we have had only one,” he says. Over the last four months, the donations have slightly increased, with 10 donations.

About 4,000 to 5,000 sq cm can be acquired from a single donation. Donated skin is used for burns patients who lose skin in more than 40% of the body surface area.

“Skin is harvested from a patient, usually from the thighs, when the burn percentage is low. About 2,000 to 4,000 sq cm is used in deep burns,” says Ramesha, a steering committee member of the bank. This skin provides a temporary cover, till the patient’s condition improves. It usually stays four to six weeks, after which it peels off, he says.

Donations from the bank in Bengaluru have been sent to Manguluru and Hyderabad also. “We use the skin for surgeries at our hospital. St John’s Hospital, Manipal Hospital and other private hospitals also place requests,” he says. College students and social activists have pledged their skin on the bank’s website.

Pandemic pressure

Lack of awareness and the pandemic added to the shortage, leading to donations coming down in 2020-21. “After a death, calls used to come from the family but that has reduced drastically during the pandemic,” he says. 

‘Donation can be collected from home’

Skin donation runs on the same principles as eye and other organ donations. “Families have to give consent for the donation. Skin is acquired from the thighs of the body, as we keep the last rites in mind,” says Dr Ramesha K T, Victoria Hospital.

Representatives from the skin bank can collect the skin from home. “They will just need a closed room and 30 to 45 minutes for the procedure,” he explains. Along with the skin donation, a blood sample is also collected to check for hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, and skin is not taken in cases that test positive. There are no skin-type norms for skin donation. “Nothing has to be matched for skin donation. Skin can be acquired from anyone. Even ethnicity doesn’t matter,” he says.

Skin donation

To pledge your skin, visit skinbankbangalore.in or call 080-2670 1150. You can also visit Victoria Hospital, near KR Market, to know more.

About the skin bank

  • Established in 2016.
  • Only one of its kind in Bengaluru.
  • Skin is harvested from cadavers.
  • Helps patients with severe burns.

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