Skin graft made of cod implemented

EAST LIVERPOOL — For two decades, Dianne Simmons had sought medical treatment for the slow-healing wounds on her legs.

She had become accustomed to the likelihood that some of those ulcers might even be more stubborn than she is, but then the Cadiz woman saw a television segment on a new protocol involving fish skin that is being used at East Liverpool City Hospital.

After calling the hospital a few days later, Simmons had her appointment and once again had hope.

Skin grafts, which are manufactured in Iceland from cod fish skins by Kerecis, accelerate the wound healing because of the structure of the fish skin and the presence of healthy Omega3 fatty acids. As a brochure explains, “Fish skin has the same structure as human skin. Kerecis fish skin is processed gently, retaining all the building blocks for wound healing and maintaining its similarity to human skin.”

Dr. Gregg Bogan, a general surgeon in the wound care unit, discussed the process, which works with the majority of people needing new skin and eliminates the need for taking a graft from elsewhere on the body.

“I don’t know why science tried this, but it works,” said Bogan, who has done nearly 40 procedures.

Everyone is not necessarily a candidate for it, he added, saying people who are slow healers because of diabetes or smoking don’t necessarily see the desired results. But it definitely is a preferable alternative to the typical treatments that are now in use.

“I’m opposed to skin grafts, which often create another open wound on the body,” Bogan said.

According to Rick Perez, director of business development and marketing, the hospital has a two-year exclusivity contract with Kerecis within a 48-mile radius and will be doing an official launch of the program Tuesday. He recently returned from Iceland, where he got to see the manufacturing process.

Similar treatments had been used to help heal the paws of bears who were burned in last year’s California wildfires. Doctors used tilapia fish to heal those wounds, a fish that should not be used on humans, according to Perez.

Simmons visited the hospital’s wound care center on March 22 for her followup appointment, one week after a nurse practitioner had applied a Kerecis Omega3 dressing to wounds on one of her legs.

Typically, when a wound does not respond to normal medical care within 30 days it is considered a problem, or chronic, wound.

Carla Ours, a clinic registered nurse, measured the wound and found a 50 percent improvement since the first application.

“I’m so impressed with this,” Simmons told Ours, who was preparing the patient for Brittani Cave, a nurse practitioner, who applied a treatment to Simmons’ other wound on her other leg.

“(The wound) is moving in the right direction,” Cave said.

After applying gauze saturated with saline to the wound, the graft, which resembles a thicker and more porous cross-stitch gauze square, is applied before another larger gauze square is placed on top of it.

The wound that had been treated earlier received a collagen dressing — the residual from the first treatment would be good for another 10 days, Cave said.

“This has meant a lot to me as I’ve had ulcers for 20 years,” Simmons said. “I’m so excited. I cannot wait to see where I go from my first appointment. I had attended nine or 10 clinics in the Tri-State Area seeking wound relief. This gives me a second chance at life. I hope I can wear socks and lead a normal life again.”

Simmons can expect to go through the process for six to eight weeks.

Perez said he hopes the treatment process eventually can be made available at all Prime Healthcare’s 45 hospitals across the United States.