You Wouldn’t Believe What This Surgeon Did to Save a Man’s Burned Hand
You often hear of innovative medical techniques, but is rare that you get to see them being used in a real life scenario. Recently in Houston, Texas, an 87 year old man was the subject of a risky procedure to save his burnt hand. After having his hand severely burned by a hot piece of metal, the doctors did not have many solutions available to save the functionality of his hand. However, by placing his hand underneath a layer of tissue in his stomach, they were able to restore complete function to his hand. It took three weeks for the hand to create a new blood supply, but it was well worth the wait. This retired farmer now has a fully recovered, functioning hand.
The reason that a normal skin graft would not work is simply because the damage to the skin was too severe. There was no remaining skin on his hand that was useable, and without an innovative idea, he would lose all function in his hand. By surgically placing the hand under several layers of skin in the abdomen, the Houston doctors were able to allow new blood vessel connections to be made. The doctors initially tried using more conservative methods of cleaning the hand, and removing the dead layers of skin. However, this proved unsuccessful and most of his left index finger had to be amputated due to infection. This is when the plastic surgeons at Houston Methodist Hospital decided to try a method that is rather unorthodox.
The patient, Frank Reyes, is a retired cattle ranch worker, and school bus driver. For him, having normal functioning of his hand was essential, even though he no longer works. He wanted to be able to drive and explore the outdoors, which wouldn’t be possible without his left hand. Reyes was injured initially by getting his hand stuck underneath a car fender, which was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit due to the scorching sun of Texas. It was stuck behind the fender for nearly an hour before it was removed, and Reyes was sent to a plastic surgeon at the nearest hospital. The heat of the tire burned through a thick work glove, and destroyed all skin on his left hand up to the bone.
A similar procedure has been used in China, in which a doctors attempt to grow new ear cartilage by placing the ear inside the lining of the abdomen or the skin on a leg. It is still not a commonly accepted procedure, and is only used in the most extreme situations. Many physicians do not even realize that it is an option when all common methods have been exhausted. The 87 year old man was in great spirits throughout the entire journey, and was willing to try innovative techniques to restore functionality. When Reyes was asked about what it felt like to have his hand surgically placed beneath the skin of his stomach, he replied that “It’s a funny feeling…Anything to get me well”.