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UC Health first in region to use spray on skin for burn patients

UC Health
Plastic and reconstructive UC Health surgeon Julia Slater, MD has started using RECELL, which can expand a patient's own skin 80 times its original size to use for skin grafts.

The idea is huge, and the benefits are big for burn patients. Spray on skin, called RECELL, is now approved for both adults and children, sparing them the unnecessary pain of dozens of skin grafts.

UC Health says it’s the first in the region to use the technology made by Avita.

UC Health
This is the kit that doctors use to prepare the spray-on-skin known as RECELL.

Assistant Medical Director of the University of Cincinnati Burn Center Julia Slater MD, explains the RECELL kit comes with everything you need. “It actually has an area where you add powder that’s reconstituted that contains enzymes. And that’s what helps break down the sample of skin into something that you can create a slurry that you can spray on.”

What’s in the spray on skin?

Trypsin is the only enzyme Avita lists, the rest are proprietary. Slater says some of the other things like melanocytes (color of the skin) and keratinocytes (which give strength) are present in the liquid she puts into a syringe and sprays onto the wound beds.

The spray is applied in the operating room and can make a small piece of skin go 80 times further with RECELL.

Does it work?

Nurse and Program Director at the UC Burn Unit Chad McGarvie sees it as a game changer. “It’s great because we can decrease the amount of dressing changes that we have to conduct. The patients get out of bed, shorter periods of time for post-operative recovery. And then their stay ends up being shorter in the long run,” he says.

UC has used it on a handful of patients in the last six months. It is expensive, but insurance pays for it it. Recently, its manufacturer announced Medicare and Medicaid would cover it.

Future use

Dr. Slater sees RECELL helping patients with congenital disorders of the skin, like blistering, as well as more widespread use for patients with smaller burns in outpatient facilities.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.