Closure of the open burn wound is the most important factor in the recovery of the thermally injured patient. In lieu of autograft skin, materials have been sought that would effectively cover large open wounds. Such a substance would of necessity provide the following: (1) control of bacterial growth, (2) a means to prepare and preserve the wounds for definitive closure, and (3) effective vapor and exudate barrier. Many artificial substances have been tried, and some have been successful in accomplishing adherence by means of tissue ingrowth. Unfortunately, one cannot equate adherence with protection, and invasive infection usually supervenes. Homograft skin, however, satisfies all the requirements in a uniquely effective manner.
In 1881, Girdner reported the removal of skin from a suicide victim for use on the wounds of a patient struck by lightning.1 That same year, Schede utilized skin from fresh amputation specimens as well as from cadavers.