Covid fallout: Skin donation drops by 90%

Skin donation in Mumbai has dropped by 90 per cent in the last nine months compared to last year. According to the statistics, the National Burn Centre has recorded only 22 skin donations which were around 200 last year between March and November. Officials have attributed this drop to the ongoing pandemic and lack of awareness regarding skin donation due to which skin centres have to return patients with severe burns who need skin transplantation to survive.

Dr Sunil Keswani, medical director, National Burns Centre said before the pandemic began they used to get nearly 20 skin donations per month, but now it has reduced to 4. Moreover, when the city reported the first Covid-19 case, the centre had received nine skin donations but between April and August, not a single donation has been recorded at the skin bank. In September only five donations were registered, with three in October and five in November.

“The reduction in skin donations across Mumbai is due to several factors which include misconceptions among people and lack of awareness about the need for skin donation. Moreover, citizens are not ready to donate skin of their loved ones after death fearing that they may contract infections,” he said.

Skin donation helps in the treatment of severely burned patients. When the skin gets badly burned or damaged, it’s unable to repair itself without help. For patients with severe burn injuries, by covering the wound with Allografts – skin from an organ donor is needed. The skin helps to prevent infections, decrease pain and provide protection, and also helps in faster healing. If the burnt area is not immediately covered with donated skin, then patients can develop an infection, leading to death.

Dr Keswani said it is the only burn centre of India where they get burn patients across the country, but due to shortage of donated skin, they have to return patients. Moreover, they have also taken all efforts to increase the awareness related to skin donation but they have received a lukewarm response. “Due to the fear of Covid-19, there is no response to the skin donation yet. So we have decided to encourage skin donation through organ transplant coordinators as they are already speaking to the family of the deceased for possible organ donation," he said.

Moreover, there are 13 skin banks in India and three are located in MMR -- NBC Airoli, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, Sion and at Masina Hospital. There are still many difficulties harvesting skin like the workforce is limited at these three hospitals, family members fear the risk of virus spread. "To avoid this risk, we are going to start with corporate hospitals first. We will harvest the skin of only those who did not have Covid-19 infection and we will take a detailed history of the deceased and their family. Of course, the team will wear PPE kits," added Dr Keswani. In the second round, they are going to approach nursing homes patients who died and did not have Covid-19 and family members who are willing to donate the skin. Lastly, the teams will start house visits.

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