Amnio from Head to Toe
Applications and Future Directions for Dehydrated Amniotic Tissue Grafts
The use of amniotic tissue grafts has evolved greatly since the early 20th century when amnion was harvested in a hospital’s maternity ward then promptly applied in its burn unit. In addition to their early applications in burns, ulcers and large wounds, ophthalmologists have used amniotic grafts since the 1940’s for conjunctival defects. Use of amniotic membrane waned for a few decades until proper tissue preservation methodologies emerged in the mid 1990’s. The past decade has seen renewed interest in amniotic tissue with applications in a wide range of surgical fields.
The efficacy of amniotic grafts as a wound covering has been well studied over decades in high-quality peer-reviewed medical journals. The same properties that protect the baby from rejection by the mother’s immune system and from infection in utero are harnessed to lower inflammation and protect against bacteria in the healing of wounds in the eye and soft tissues.
With the documentation of amniotic tissue’s anti-infective and anti-inflammatory properties for wounds, research exploring other surgical applications is emerging. Animal models have shown positive effects of amniotic grafts for tendon repair and bone healing. In orthopedics, clinical studies have supported the application of amnion to decrease inflammation in tendinitis, reduce adhesions when used over the dura in spine surgery and to speed healing in plantar fasciitis.
Other promising areas of research include use of the tissue in oral and maxillofacial surgery, in neurosurgery as a dural sealant and protector during skull base surgery, in plastic surgery as an inhibitor of scarring and as protection for the nerve bundle during prostatectomies.
Clinical data on applications for amniotic tissue grafts is exploding. As the literature base solidifies in the next several years the number of approved indications for this versatile material in healing soft tissues and wounds throughout the body will assuredly grow. The convergence of improved processing techniques with solid clinical trial data supporting efficacy will spur adoption of amniotic grafts to speed healing from head to toe.