Wound healing after cultured epithelial autografting in patients with massive burn injury: a cohort study

Mr Cheng Hean Lo1, Dr Shiva  Akbarzadeh1, Professor Catriona McLean2, Mr Andrew Ives1, Dr Eldho Paul3, Professor Wendy Brown4, Ms Heather Cleland1

1Victorian Adult Burns Service, Melbourne, Australia, 2Department of Anatomical Pathology, The Alfred, Melbourne, Australia, 3Department of Epidemiology & Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, 4Monash University, Melbourne, Australia


Background/ Aim

Last century, our laboratory produced Cultured Epithelial Autograft (CEA) for clinical use by the affiliated adult burn service and other burn units across the country. Production of CEA for clinical use was discontinued after several years because of a low success rate and subsequent low demand. Recently at our burns unit, a cell culture program was re-introduced as a direct response to the need for improvement in ongoing deficiencies and clinical requirements in burn wound closure. The aim of this study was to validate the laboratory processes and clinical algorithms established and share our recent clinical experiences involving CEA.


This observational cohort study recruited patients with burns exceeding 35% TBSA admitted to the Victorian Adult Burns Service at The Alfred (December 2013 – December 2016). Autologous keratinocytes were expanded and delivered via sheets of fibrin carrier.


Twelve patients were recruited to participate in the study. Thirty-two sites were treated with CEA. CEA applied in combination with widely meshed SSG led to the highest take rate (90.1%) at 7-10 days. Further debridement and grafting was necessary in sixteen of thirty-two sites treated, all involving wound beds prepared with Cuono method or sites treated with CEA only.


It is important to address the problem of wound bed contamination, either through increased resistance on the part of the construct or wound bed sterilization. Improved understanding of the relative importance of vascularisation, control of cell behaviour, the extracellular matrix, immune function and intrinsic antimicrobial capacity for graft take would then inform a more targeted approach to skin tissue engineering for wound closure in severe burns.


Specialist plastic & reconstructive surgeon with the Victorian Adult Burns Service at The Alfred, Victoria.  He has published more than thirty peer-reviewed journal articles, co-authored a textbook in reconstructive surgery and presented at national and international meetings. He is a senior adjunct lecturer at Monash University and is actively engaged in research.

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