First skin transplant in Costa Rica received by child

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    After 133 days of hospitalization, a child of nine years has a new lease on life thanks to the first skin transplant done in Central America and the Caribbean.

    Specialists of the National Children’s Hospital (Hospital Nacional de Niños) saved the life of this child, who had serious bacterial skin infections. “The boy came to us with many injuries, high fevers and infections that were ‘killing’ his skin,” said Carlos Siri, head of the Burns Unit, who led the pioneering surgery.

    The child is recovering in the burns unit at the medical center and should return home within two weeks. “The wounds on his skin have healed enough to send him home. In fact, this week he enjoyed a Christmas party at the hospital.”

    Costa Rica, along with Argentina and Uruguay, is one of the few Latin American countries who currently utilizes this technique. Doctors and experts say that at least 40 children will benefit each year from the skin grafts.

    “This is an achievement for Costa Rica. The skin was taken, processed, preserved and applied solely by Costa Ricans,” said Rodolfo Hernández, director of the National Children’s Hospital.

    Skin Donation

    The transplanted tissues came from the National Skin Bank (Banco Nacional de Piel), which began collecting last June at the Children’s Hospital. “Costa Rica is a very supportive country. So far, no family has refused to donate their dead skin when it is requested. We have stored 4,800 cm² of skin, which can be used in about 13 transplants for children,” explained Marlene Herrera, a microbiologist in charge of National Skin Bank.

    Tissues were taken from cadaveric donors between 18 and 65 whose family agreed to donate the skin. “Donating skin is another way to save lives. For now, we still do not have sufficient reserves to cope with adult burns, but the idea is that within a year we will have enough,” said Herrera.

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