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New Treatment Offers Fresh Hope for Burn Victims

June 02, 2009 07:29 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
Three burn victims living with old scars have seen cosmetic improvement after receiving a laser treatment generally reserved for people with bad acne scars.

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Chandra, Trae and Jordan Berns grew up under very different circumstances than most kids. As infants, the triplets were seriously burned in a house fire that took the life of their mother.

Now 22, the girls have spent a great deal of their lives living with “thick and disfiguring scars that covered their arms, backs, chests and faces,” Mike Celizic, a TodayShow.com contributor wrote.

However, the sisters have found new hope in eliminating—or at least reducing the appearance of—their old injuries with a laser treatment most often used for people with acne scars. The girls started treatment, an ultrapulse fractional ablative laser, three months ago, and say their scars look much better than before. 

Dr. Jill Waibel, a Florida dermatologist, modified the laser treatment to assist burn victims. She and Lumenis, the producer of the laser, decided to help the girls for free.

“Burn patients have been through such horrible things and then they’re left with horrible scars. And the scars can hurt and itch and they’re disfiguring so I think we’re all kind of in it together,” Dr. Waibel said in an article at KOMU.com.

The procedure works by sending “tiny dots of heat deep into the scar tissue vaporizing the scar and allowing a healthy layer of skin collagen to eventually re-grow.”

After peeling and redness from the procedure subsided, the girls said they were already excited about the changes they saw. There are more treatments to come, and although the girls know the scars might not go away entirely, they are happy for a chance to erase the evidence of their injuries.

“The social stigma of walking around with scars on your body is unbelievably difficult for most people, especially when you see three beautiful girls,” Dr. Nancy Snyderman told Today Show host Matt Lauer.

“Just knowing there’s hope out there for other burn survivors to help their appearance, that’s just really good to know,” Trae stated.

Background: The history of burn treatment

“Of all bodily injuries, few are more traumatic than burns,” Time wrote in a 1971 article evaluating the evolution of burn treatment. At that time, growing numbers of hospitals were opening burn centers for research and treatment, others had established smaller “burn units,” and even more had started “specific courses of treatment for burn patients.”

Medical personnel were using topical creams and burn dressings to treat injuries, learning how to cover wounds better, and finding that the application of plastic casts and pressure bandages could lessen scarring and improve how burned skin would heal. 

Key Players: Burn research organizations today

Numerous burn research centers and foundations have continued to spring up around the country. The Massachusetts General Hospital Burn Research Center has spent more than 30 years learning how the body reacts to burns, and has made considerable contributions to the understanding of nutrition in burn treatment and the development of artificial skin.

In the pediatric realm, the Shriners hospital system has paved the way in pediatric burn care, developing the first hospitals devoted to treating burns for youngsters and becoming a leader in burn research.

Reference: First aid for burns

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