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Bacterial fluorescence imaging as a predictor of skin graft integration in burn wounds.

Burns 2024 April 16
BACKGROUND: Split-thickness skin graft (STSG)1 integration rates are susceptible to improvement. Infection and/or biofilm should be appropriately addressed prior to grafting to improve the likelihood of graft-take. Incorporating technological aids such as fluorescence (FL)2 imaging (MolecuLight®), which accurately locates areas of bacterial loads above 104 CFU/gr, for graft site assessment and preparation could yield better outcomes.

METHODS: This single-center, prospective observational study included adult burn patients with previously infected wounds that had been deemed clinically and microbiologically clean and were therefore candidates for grafting. Prior to grafting, a FL imaging assessment (blinded to the surgical team) localized areas positive for moderate-high bacterial loads (>104 CFU/gr). Intra-operatively, a standard swab sample from the recipient site was collected by the surgical team. Postoperatively, areas positive/negative for FL and areas of graft take and failure were overlapped and measured (cm2 ) over a 2D schematic. The performance and accuracy of FL imaging and swab sampling in relation to graft outcomes were assessed.

RESULTS: 38 patients were enrolled in the study. The mean total body surface area (TBSA)3 involvement was 14.5 ± 12.4 % [range 0.8 - 40.2 %]. 25/38 of the subjects enrolled had complete graft take while 13 had partial graft losses. There were no total losses. FL-imaging was positive in 100 % of losses versus 31 % (4/13) of the swab microbiology. FL-imaging was found to have a sensitivity of 86 %, specificity of 98 %, PPV of 72 %, NPV of 99 %, and an accuracy of 94 % for predicting any type or range of graft loss in the entire cohort. Meanwhile, the sensitivity of microbiology from swab samples was 30 %, with a specificity of 76 %.

CONCLUSIONS: FL imaging is an accurate method for assessing recipient sites and predicting the outcome of a skin graft among burn patients. These findings suggest that FL imaging can inform better decision-making surrounding grafts that may lead to better outcomes.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level IIA, Therapeutic study.

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