Spray-on-skin cells helping treat burn victims at Temple University Hospital

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Specialists at Temple University Hospital have a new tool for treating severe burns. It's less invasive, less painful and can lead to faster healing.

Doctors using the new therapy say this is a game-changer. It's the first new burn treatment to be approved in several decades.

Action News spoke with the first patient treated at Temple's Burn Center. He feels fortunate to be alive and on the road to recovery.

Hector Rodriguez continues working to stretch his skin and regain mobility after a life-changing accident this summer.

"It went from normal everyday life to now, which is doctors appointments, dealing with pain and learning how to walk again, talk again," he said.

Neighbors captured cell phone video of the house Rodriguez had just purchased to renovate. They say it seemed to explode and go up in flames. He has no memory of the fateful day and suffered severe burns over fifty percent of his body.

At Temple's Burn Center, Doctor Lisa Rae used the new RECELL System.

Deep burns are typically treated by grafting enough of a patient's healthy skin to cover the burned area, but with RECELL, doctors are able to graft a much smaller area, immerse it in a special enzyme and create spray-on-skin cells that cover a much larger burn.

Dr. Rae calls this a game-changer when it comes to treating burns.

"Sometimes we're limited when there's large burns by how much donor site we have, whether or not we can get the patient to survive. And so RECELL allows us to use much smaller donor sites and therefore somebody with a larger burn is survivable."

She says the new system also helps patients heal faster, with less pain, less chance for infection and possibly less scarring.

Rodriguez healed much faster than expected he still has a long road ahead of him but is grateful for all the people helping him. "I got lucky, very lucky," he said.

There are a handful of medical centers in our area now using RECELL including Crozer-Keystone Health, St. Christopher's Children's and Lehigh Valley Hospital and Jefferson.
Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.