December 15, 2006 10:10 ET


Ontario's Largest Burn Unit and Only Skin Bank in Need of Tissue Donations

Attention: Assignment Editor, Health/Medical Editor, News Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO, MEDIA RELEASE--(CCNMatthews - Dec. 15, 2006) - Sunnybrook's Ross Tilley Burn Centre and the hospital's Ontario Professional Firefighters Skin Bank are in critical need of skin donations to help patients who have serious burn injuries.

There is currently a national shortage of human skin donors, which has Ontario's largest Burn Centre issuing a public plea for people to consider tissue donation. The team of burn care providers at the Ross Tilley Burn Centre realizes that the wonderful gift of life that is achieved through tissue donation is inevitably linked to a loss. The act of giving often results in saving the life of others which is why skin donation is so important.

"About 80 per cent of serious burn patients in the province will arrive at Sunnybrook and the gold standard for treatment when the patient's own skin is not available is to transplant donated human cadaver skin," says Dr. Joel Fish, Medical Director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre. "Donated skin reduces the growth of bacteria and loss of critical fluid, and also improves a patient's immunological state. Donated skin can make the difference between life and death."

Skin retrieved at the Ontario Professional Firefighters Skin Bank is called a 'split-thickness allograft'. This means that each piece of skin taken consists of the epidermis and a small portion of the underlying dermis. The pieces of skin are only 0.016 inches or 0.40 millimeters thick. Donations are recovered from men and women between 14 to 75 years of age who have been deceased 24-hours or less and who have no infectious diseases or malignancies.

"Skin donations are delicately taken from a person's back in small sheets that are about as thick as a piece of wax paper," says Dr. Jeannie Callum, medical director of Sunnybrook's blood and tissue bank. "Unfortunately, skin and tissue donation is not as well-known as other organ donations such as the liver and lungs but they can be equally life-saving."

For more information about donating skin, tissue and other organs, please contact the Trillium Gift of Life Network, Ontario's organ and tissue donation agency, at 416-363-4001 or 1-800-263-2833 or visit the organization on-line at

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is transforming health care through the dedication of its more than 10,000 staff, physicians and volunteers who provide compassionate and innovative patient care. An internationally recognized leader in research and education and a full affiliation with the University of Toronto, distinguishes Sunnybrook as one of Canada's premier academic health sciences centres. Sunnybrook specializes in caring for newborns, adults and the elderly, treating and preventing cancer, neurological and psychiatric disorders, cardiovascular disease, orthopaedic and arthritic conditions and traumatic injuries.


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