Thursday, September 20, 2007

Urban legend debunked: Can you donate skin from your tummy tuck to the Shriner's burn center for skin grafting?

I do a good bit of surgery on people after the two most common weight loss operations, gastric bypass and gastric banding (the "lap-band"). Every few months I get an email from someone asking about a rumor they've heard that if they donate their excised skin from their tummy tuck (panniculectomy) surgery that they will get the cost of their surgery covered by the Shriner's, the charitable social organization whose endowment funds many of the largest burn units across the country.

The idea that that skin could be used easily always sounded fishy to me, as post weight loss skin is "damaged goods" and would seem like poor material to be considered for use as it tends to be very thin and attenuated tissue.

Cadaver skin has been harvested for a long time for use as temporary wound coverage. If you try grafting it on someone else, their body ultimately mounts an immune response and rejects it. Still, it can make an effective temporary closure for very large burns. A number of companies turn cadaver skin into commercial products like Alloderm by removing the proteins from it that trigger your immune system. Alloderm (usually processed from the very thick back skin) is a very strong material I increasingly use during breast reconstruction.

Anyway, back to busting the urban legend thing.............

From the Shriner's Hospital website:

Q: Can skin from gastric bypass surgery be donated to children for skin grafts?

A: No, the only donor skin that can be used at the burn center is cadaver skin processed through a skin bank. Only skin from cadavers is used for skin grafts, because cadavers give the greatest amount of surface area – up to 10 sq. feet of usable skin for a burn patient. Skin that could be taken from a person who had excessive weight loss would not generate the amount of skin or quality skin needed to treat burn patients.



ana said...

Interesting topic. This is off-topic, but are you aware of any surgeons that are particularly skilled with ethnic rhinoplasty? Are there areas around the country that you'd recommend?

Dr. Rob Oliver said...

Where do you live? I can prob. suggest some names for the rhinoplasty.

Ana said...

I live in Boston. I've looked in Boston, D.C., NYC, Atlanta, Dallas and Los Angeles. I've found one in Dallas, but it's a bit far for follow-up though if I can't find someone I trust closer, I'll probably go for it and collect frequent flyer miles

Dr. Rob Oliver said...


While there are lots of good surgeons in your area, two world authorities in your neck of the woods would be:

Norm Pastorek in NYC

Mark Constantian in New Hampshire

I'm particularly impressed (per se) with Dr. Constantian's philosophies and techniques.

Dr. Rob Oliver said...

Oh I forgot, in Dallas there's Drs. Steve Byrd, Jack Gunter, John Tebbetts, and Rod Rohrich all of whom are "superstars" in the field of rhinoplasty

Leslie said...

I would not want my Dallas plastic surgeons to give me stretched out skin from someone. I want my surgeries to look as good as possible.