Patients with large, complex, and non-healing wounds are benefitting from a relatively new procedure called SkinTE that is changing the way some wound care is delivered, speeding up healing, saving limbs, and making care more cost-effective for patients.
“Imagine what you could do if you found someone that had a major burn throughout their body and you could take a small 1 by 3 centimeter piece of skin and expand it out to 1,000 square centimeters,” said Mark Jones, DPM, a podiatric surgeon with Methodist Physician Group Foot and Ankle Specialists. “The latest and greatest technology is here in Northwest Indiana, and anyone who can do basic surgery can do this procedure.”
Jones started using SkinTE approximately six months ago to care for patients whose wounds were not healing, or who were facing dramatic measures like possible amputation. From diabetics to smokers, to 3-year-olds or 94-year-olds, this procedure can help anyone with defects of the skin.
“We are able to take a piece of skin graft from the patient versus using other derived products, and then send it out to a lab in Salt Lake City,” Jones said.
The lab then generates the person’s own skin from that sample, so it can be used in their skin grafts.
“We’re seeing wound closure in as little as four weeks, so it’s a whole paradigm shift on how we treat wounds both acute and chronic,” Jones said.
SkinTE was originally created for complex wounds that would require a graft substitute, or, in other words, a graft made of something other than the person’s own skin. When a large skin graft is necessary, the risks of complications and even death are greater, and using substitute materials increases the chance of the body rejecting the graft because it doesn’t recognize it as its own material.
“Now we’re taking a small ellipse and you get a stem cell or a progenerative cell back from that,” Jones said. “So, you’re not just taking skin and putting on skin, we’re using regenerative medicine prepared from the actual patient so it’s low risk and there is no rejection.”
One of Jones’ first patients, Joann Watkins, came to him with a unique wound for the procedure. Around six months ago, Watkins came in with a severely infected and deep wound covering her entire heel. Running out of options, Watkins was faced with the possible amputation of her foot.
“I had stepped on something and my foot got infected. The infection then ended up in my bloodstream which put me in the hospital,” Watkins said. “I was in the hospital for six weeks, and Dr. Jones saved my leg and my foot.”
After cleaning Watkins’ wound, Jones replaced part of the open wound with surrounding muscle before SkinTE was done (known as the two-fold approach). It took about six weeks to ensure the tissue was viable for SkinTE, but after that, it was smooth sailing and Watkins was back on her feet in no time.
“When he came to me with this procedure, I didn’t have to think twice. I said, ‘let’s do it,’” Watkins said. “That was about three months ago and now I’m doing great. It’s all healed.”
SkinTE offers a shorter recovery time than other procedures and is generally less expensive. When you consider the cost of going to a wound center weekly for several months, patient travel, supplies and equipment, grafts, and everything else that comes with complex treatment, the process can cost tens of thousands of dollars. SkinTE offers a faster healing process which translates to the patient saving time and money, and helping them get back to their normal life, faster.
For more information about SkinTE, go to www.pte.cool/SkinTE. For more information about Methodist Physician Group Specialists visit https://www.methodistphysiciangroupspecialists.org/.