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24th March 2023 Equipment

New laser equipment helping RAH burns patients

Hospital building

Helping burns victims repair their scars, both physically and mentally

A state-of-the-art laser machine used for the treatment of burns scars has helped 43 patients at the Royal Adelaide Hospital since it was installed thanks to a grant from The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF) Group.

The fractionated CO2 ablative laser is improving the post-treatment outcomes for burns victims by remodelling their scars, reducing the need for complex reconstructive surgery and reducing recovery times.

It is the first time adults in Adelaide have had access to the technology.

A/Prof Marcus Wagstaff, Plastic Surgeon and Head of Unit of the RAH’s Adult Burns Centre, said since its introduction, the burns team is seeing a real and positive impact on patients as they recover from their trauma.

“Once a burn is healed, the next phase in the patient journey is scar care. Some patients can carry the burden of their scars for many years, and are often tormented by symptoms of wound breakdowns, itchiness, pain, skin tightness, joint contractures and a constant visible reminder of their trauma,” A/Prof Wagstaff said.

“The laser produces microscopic thermal injury patterns which encourages tissue remodelling. Compared with wounds which scar, the microscopic wounds created with the laser heal without scarring.

“This is helping to remodel burns scars and reduce the duration of scar therapy so people can return to work earlier, to improve their quality of life and reduce the need and complexity of reconstructive surgery.”

A new research project, also funded by THRF Group, is formally evaluating these outcomes.

“We’re hugely grateful for the support of The Hospital Research Foundation Group in purchasing the equipment and peripheral equipment, and now in evaluating its performance,” A/Prof Wagstaff said.

“Formal evaluation is important to ensure there are meaningful clinical benefits for patients that complement our current scar management techniques.”

Helping burns victims repair their scars – both physically and mentally

Sarah* received partial and full thickness burns to 19% of her body from a fire accident in November 2018, which resulted in significant scarring to both legs and right hand.

She has been able to undertake three sessions of reconstructive CO2 laser treatment as part of her care at the RAH, which had been “invaluable in managing physically and mentally after this considerable trauma”.

“I am so grateful to the wonderful, patient and caring staff who have managed my ongoing care since my accident and to have had this opportunity to undertake reconstructive laser therapy in a public healthcare setting,” Sarah said.

“I appreciate this treatment is not generally available without considerable cost. However, the improvement in my healing from this treatment has given me hope that one day I will be confident enough to return to dresses, skirts, bikinis at the beach and feeling comfortable with my body, which I’m sure would mean a lot to anyone.

“Thanks again to everyone involved and I hope other burns survivors also have to opportunity to undertake this wonderful treatment.”

Working together to improve patient care

The RAH Adults Burns Centre is one of the busiest units in Australia, treating approximately 400-450 people each year.

Paul Flynn, CEO of The Hospital Research Foundation Group, said burns treatment and recovery was a critical area of patient care.

“We are proud to support the esteemed Adults Burns Centre at the RAH with this piece of equipment to enhance scar management for burns victims,” Paul said.

“The team offers world-class care in the treatment and management of burn injuries and we’re glad the equipment has become a great asset to them as they continue their high quality of care.

“This support has been made possible through the generosity of our donors, fundraisers and ticket buyers in The Hospital Research Foundation Home Lottery.”

*Not her real name.