Doctor’s Perspective: Richard Kagan, MD  |  June 7, 2011

A chat with Dr. Richard Kagan about his use of allograft tissue as a burn surgeon, and what tissue donation means to him

Dr. Kagan is the Chief of Staff at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati and Professor of Surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Q: Describe why allograft skin is crucial to save and heal burn victims.

A: It provides a temporary wound cover until the wound is ready to accept the patient’s own skin or until the patient’s limited donor sites are available for autografting.

Q: Why do you use allograft skin for the treatment of burns, versus synthetic materials?

A: I use a combination of both, but 90% of the time fresh allograft is my preference because it will vascularize and adhere to the wound bed better. Allograft tissue creates a temporary wound cover that permits the patient’s condition to improve without the need to create an additional wound from the harvesting of autologous skin.  My use is predominantly in deep and/or extensive burns in which case the allograft tissue is potentially lifesaving, but I also use it in the treatment of small burns, abrasion injuries and infected wounds because of its reliable effectiveness.

Q: What do you look forward to in terms of new innovations and new possibilities for tissue transplantation in the future?

A: I’d like to see day when the viability of allograft skin is actually measurable and repeatable so when a surgeon wants fresh or viable skin there’s a measure that implies or guarantees a standard. I’d also like to see more techniques developed to store and maintain the viability of allogeneic tissue, so we don’t have to hope the timing of a donation and a clinical need coincide.

Q: What does organ and tissue donation mean to you, professionally and personally?

A: As a physician it means everything in terms of my ability to take care of my patients, save the lives of burn victims and facilitate meaningful recovery from small burns that may be devastating if not treated properly. It means survival, function and cosmetics.

Personally I’ve been involved in tissue banking since the early 1980s when I became the medical director of a tissue bank. I support it myself and tell others to do the same thing; I signed a donor card and I talk to all my friends and colleagues about the importance of becoming an organ and tissue donor.

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