Lifewatch: Liquid Knife

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - There is a new tool doctors use to help people who are badly burned.

The liquid knife allows surgeons to treat burn patients by removing dead skin without damaging healthy cells.

14-month-old Brendan Green's grandmother looked away for a few seconds which was just enough time for him to get into trouble.

A hot cup of water scalded his asking, burning over 13% of his body.  The worst burns were on his neck, chest, and left arm.

One week after the accident, plastic surgeon Brooke Burkey operated on Brendan.  Instead of using a traditional scalpel, Burkey used a liquid knife.

The knife cuts through skin with a razor-thin stream of saline that moves faster than the speed of sound.

"The cutting area of water is smaller than a traditional knife, so we can get into very fine areas or very delicate areas with a lot more precision," said Burkey.

Using the liquid knife, surgeons removed only dead cells while leaving healthy skin intact.  Doctors say precision may be the key to reducing scars, especially for babies and toddlers.

"Young children's skin tends to be thinner than adult skin, so the more precise we can be, the better," said Burkey.

Doctors say the liquid knife also cuts down the time a patient is in surgery, prevents infections, and can be used to remove ulcers.

The Center for Disease Control reports 300 children are treated for burns caused by hot water everyday.

To learn more about the liquid knife, click here.