TISSUE BANKS: Association Investigates Skin Shortage
On the heels of an Orange County Register report revealing that hospitals are "having trouble finding skin to treat burn victims while plastic surgeons are using skin for elective surgeries," the American Association of Tissue Banks has launched a plan to investigate the nation's skin shortage. Officials maintained that the investigation had "been in the works" prior to the Register's series, "The Body Brokers," published three weeks ago. At their semiannual meeting this weekend, the association's Skin Council agreed to form a survey and possibly hire a polling firm to "find out which hospitals are coming up short and why." Dr. Richard Kagan, a burn surgeon and the association's president, said, "First we need to find out whether there is a shortage out there. This is the one tissue -- not organ, but tissue -- that perhaps can help save a life." The association currently does not have any rule which makes emergency burn victims the top priority for donated skin, nor does the federal government. Although no one tracks the number of burn victims every year who are forced to wait for donated skin, burn centers across the country frequently complain of having to make multiple calls before finding enough tissue to meet their needs. The Skin Council hopes to begin surveying burn surgeons this fall, but council chair Glenn Greenleaf warned, "This is not the Skin as a Temporary Covering Burns Council, it's the Skin Council. There are new applications [of skin donation] now, so we need to approach this very carefully" (Heisel, Orange County Register, 5/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.