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To heal wounds faster

The delicate and durable membrane that protects the baby in the mother’s womb called amnion is normally discarded after the baby’s birth. But now this membrane is being used in eye surgery besides ulcers, burns. Sunita Aron examines...What is amnion?

health-and-fitness Updated: May 21, 2008, 23:24 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Hindustan Times

Eighteen-months old Raju (name changed) screamed with pain when boiling dal fell on him. His tender skin — half his body — had suffered second-degree burns. Panic-stricken parents rushed him to Mumbai’s known plastic surgeon Dr Kalpesh Gajiwala.

After cleaning the wound and removing the dead skin, Dr Gajiwala placed the transparent biological dressing ‘Amnion’ directly on the wound. The transparent thin dressing stuck easily to the oozing surface and sealed it completely. It automatically peeled off after the wound had healed. The child was saved from the trauma of daily dressing.

In the words of Dr Kalpesh who uses amnion quite extensively either in preparing the burn wounds for a skin graft or to help heal the sites from which a skin graft has been taken says, “It helps in faster healing and causes much less scarring.”

Perhaps there can’t be a better recycling of “after birth waste.”

The delicate and durable membrane that protects the baby in the mother’s womb called amnion is normally discarded after the baby’s birth. But now this membrane is being used here in eye surgery besides ulcers, burns, diabetic ulcers, bedsores et al. And it is available in ‘ready to use’ packs at India’s only ISO 9001:2000 certified Tissue Bank of Tata Memorial Hospital.

As of now the hospital recovers this precious after birth waste from the two maternity hospitals in its vicinity to be processed; freeze dried, sterilised by gamma radiation and packaged. As amnion dressings are stored at room temperature, packets are easily mailed anywhere in the country.

Unfortunately this amazing membrane is going waste in the rest of the city and country. The solution lies in setting up a national bank. As its production is directly linked to the childbirth, the raw material availability will never be a problem in a country that is battling to arrest the birth rate. Only the donors will have to come forward as their consent is required even though it is a discarded tissue.

“The donor has to know its specific use and also give consent for the testing of the donated blood sample for HIV, Hepatitis etc,” says Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, head of the Tissue Bank. As many as 5,00,000 patients are treated in United States every year with amnion.

The biological wound dressing can be used on any part of the body. The largest size available is 20X20cms and smallest is 4X4cms. It sticks like a stamp, seals off the wound and peels off as the wound heels. Its cheap, it’s transparent, and is usually preferred as it mimics the skin. Analgesic use is also reduced, as there is almost immediate pain relief.

Sharing his own experience A Bakhru said “I suffered serious burns during Diwali festivities in November last. My hand was badly burnt while I was lighting a flower mountain with a sparkler. I was rushed to the hospital where the doctor treated me. I haven’t had normal dressing. Amnion dressing came as a big relief as there was no need to clean the wound every two days or suffer the pain during the removal of the bandage after seven days of surgery. Pain is something that makes you insane with burns and burns dressing. Amnion made it easy — a lifesaver for people with high percentage of burns.”

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