Article Title

A preliminary investigation of the reinnervation and return of sensory function in burn patients treated with INTEGRA®


Background: Loss of sensory function in scar after burn is common, although the basis for this loss is not clear. Additionally, little is known about the effects of different treatment modalities on sensory function and neuroanatomical outcomes in burn patients. Here, we investigated the effects of the use of the INTEGRA® dermal scaffold on neuroanatomy and sensory function in acute burn patients.

Hypothesis and objectives: We hypothesized that the use of artificial dermal templates would inhibit or reduce reinnervation after excision, since regrowth of nerves requires complex molecular interactions. Therefore the primary objective of this study was to identify whether there is regrowth of nerve fibres in the INTEGRA® dermal scaffold. The secondary objective was to identify whether the INTEGRA® dermal scaffold reduced nerve regrowth or limited sensory function outcomes in acute burn patients.

Methods: Five patients treated with INTEGRA®, cultured epithelial autograft spray (prepared using ReCell® (CEA)) and split skin graft (SSG) were assessed for sensory function in scar and uninjured contralateral control skin. Neuroanatomy of scar and control sites was assessed using immunohistochemistry for PGP9.5, CGRP and substance P neuronal markers. Nerve density and sensory function was also assessed in a comparative group (n = 8) treated with CEA and SSG only.

Results: Neuroanatomy was not significantly different in the INTEGRA® patients when compared to the CEA/SSG group only. The patients treated with INTEGRA® had worse sensory function than those with CEA/SSG only.

Conclusions: Peripheral nerves do reinnervate the INTEGRA® dermal scaffold. There is no statistically significant reduction in reinnervation observed when compared to a control group. It is possible that the use of artificial dermal constructs, while permissive for nerve regrowth, limit functionality when compared to nerves that regrow through dermal tissue. Further research to understand the causes of this, and into enhancing reinnervation in dermal scaffolds may improve sensory outcome in the most severely burned patients.



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