The skin is not just the largest, but also one of the most important organs of our body. Its obvious importance is based on an array of different and significant functions. Protecting all the delicate body parts that lie underneath from injury and disease, regulating body temperature, retaining moisture, removing toxins and producing Vitamin D are some of the most important functions which are performed by the skin - and it gives us our sense of touch. Therefore, any trauma which affects healthy and fully functioning skin has a severe impact on the health of the individual.
As well as the preventative measures and huge improvements in wound care over the last 20 years, which have mainly improved the situation of patients in developed countries, burn injuries are one of the most severe and devastating injuries to the human body. The incidence of burns which are sufficiently severe to require medical attention is estimated to affect nearly 11 million people per year and burns are ranked fourth in all injuries, higher than the combined incidence of tuberculosis and HIV infection1. For severly damaged skind, the treatment for burns requires highly specialized wound dressings based on different materials and biomaterials as well as skin graft surgery for skin transplantation.
There are many severe skin injuries, such as extensive wounding or trauma, burns, extensive skin loss due to infection and skin cancer, which require skin transplant, or a skin graft. Skin grafts are extensively used in the treatment for burns, and third-degree burns in particular, where the skin is destroyed to its full depth as well as the underlying tissue, require a skin graft. If possible, a type of skin transplant is used that takes skin from another part of the patient's body, if there is sufficient undamaged skin available and if the patient is healthy enough to undergo the additional surgery required.
Non-healing wounds, such as diabetic ulcers, venous ulcers and pressure sores, are also treated with skin grafts to prevent infection and stop the wound from deteriorating and support tissue regeneration. As well as hopefully having a positive effect on the site of the wound, a skin graft also creates a wound at the skin graft donor site. The skin graft donor site then has to generate new skin and needs a stimulating wound environment, requiring adequate wound dressings and special treatment to boost tissue regeneration and healing. This requires support through adequate wound care management and wound dressings to assist with rapid re-epithelization and tissue regeneration.
Chronic wounds are a major health problem and a cause of severe pain, emotional stress and loss of quality of life for patients who suffer from them. Most chronic wounds are leg ulcers and pressure ulcers and increasingly affect people over the age of 60. Chronic leg ulcers affect 0.6–3% of those aged over 60, increasing to over 5% of those aged over 80. The progressive ageing of the population due to demographic change is responsible for a continuous increase in the number of people affected by such chronic wounds. This calls for serious efforts to be made in providing effective treatments with special wound care dressings and requires personalised treatment options and wound care management due to the broad spectrum of causes of chronic wounds.