Treatment Promotes Regrowth of Severed Fingers and Salvaging of Limbs
How can a pig salvage a severed thumb? Regrow fingertips after a dog bite? Or restore tissue to a leg nearly crushed in a car accident?
Dr. Bruce Kraemer, SLUCare plastic surgeon, uses a restorative treatment – derived from pig cells – to help patients at risk of losing their fingers or limbs after a severe traumatic injury.
ECM technology – the key to regrowth
This restorative treatment involves the use of extracellular matrix (ECM) technology. ECM products contain specific proteins, carbohydrates and collagen found in pig tissue. These are carefully extracted and prepared in a way that human cells are unlikely to reject. They become the building block for regeneration of new tissue.
When Dr. Kraemer applies ECM powder or sheets to a wound, it triggers a response in the body that promotes the growth of new, more normal-quality cells instead of scar tissue. Compared to standard surgical treatments, such as flaps or skin grafts, ECM healing tends to more closely resemble the patient's own healthy tissues.
When is ECM treatment used?
ECM is most effective for:
- Severe wounds, including those affecting skin, muscles, tendons and other tissues surrounding the bone.
- Wounds that are unlikely to heal well with standard surgical treatments.
- Fresh wounds. Fingertips should be treated within 5-7 days of the injury. ECM will not regrow fingers that were previously amputated.
- Chronic wounds, such as diabetic ulcers, in conjunction with medical management of the underlying disease.
- Burn wounds.
- Radiation wounds.
What kind of healing can you expect from ECM treatment?
While ECM treatment does not perfectly replace original tissue, the results are impressive. In almost all patients, ECM helps tissue to heal more normally with less scarring. Fingertips regrow with new nail beds – even fingerprints! And in people of color, the new tissue growth more closely resembles their natural skin tone.
As with any medical treatment, other health conditions may affect the body's healing response. However, most people respond well to ECM treatment. Healing may take more time than with traditional surgical treatments, but many patients' wounds continue to improve long after outward healing has taken place. Patients may need repeated ECM applications to achieve the best result.
Does insurance cover ECM treatment?
Although ECM treatment has been in use for years, many insurance plans still regard it as "new and experimental," and do not cover the cost of ECM care. Many workers' compensation companies, however, DO cover ECM treatment. So check with your insurance provider regarding coverage.
ECM research at SLUCare
Dr. Kraemer has been working with ECM products and their manufacturer, ACell®, since 2010. He is a leading researcher in the use of this technology and has treated more than 150 patients using ECM products.
Dr. Kraemer travels around the country sharing the results of this work with his professional colleagues and is currently authoring papers on his clinical experience with these products. While he is paid for professional talks, he does not own any ACell stock, nor does he have any other financial interest in ACell.
For more information, call 314-577-8793.