Atrium Health is the first to use fish skin to repair tissue

CHARLOTTE, NC — The nutritional benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are widely known in the medical community, but it turns out that fish can also be helpful in the operating room.

What do you want to know

  • Atrium Health’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute Announces First Hospital in the World to Commercially Use Implantable Fish Skin Graft
  • The product, called Surgibind, uses North Atlantic cod skin
  • It is grafted onto human skin to create an environment where the patient’s own tissues can regenerate
  • Patient says procedure has allowed him to enjoy life again

Joe Hill worked in construction for 35 years. He enjoys the creative possibilities involved in his work and seeing the finished product.

“I enjoy this line of work for self-gratification,” Hill said. “I can start with nothing and when I’m done it’s beautiful and it’s done.”

He usually uses his hands for everything, but in May his world came to a screeching halt.

“I was thinking of selling my tools because I thought I could never use my arm or my hand again,” Hill said.

Hill had developed multiple blood clots in his right arm and hand, which cut off blood flow. Doctors were unsure if he would ever be able to use his arm again.

“One of the doctors said OK, stay here, we’ll schedule you for surgery because your arm is rotting,” Hill said. “We’re going to cut it in the shoulder.”

Hill couldn’t stand the thought of not having a full arm. He spoke with another doctor, Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute surgeon Dr. Hector Crespo Soto, who said they could instead cut his forearm and heal the skin tissue with a brand new treatment. .

“I was a little skeptical,” Hill said. “I was like, ‘What’s the fish skin gonna do?’ I’ve never heard of it.”

The product is called SurgiBind. Soto says they use skin from North Atlantic cod. When grafted onto human skin, it creates an environment in which the patient’s own tissues can regenerate.

“What that means is that it starts to release some of the growth factors needed for the wound bed to start healing,” Soto said. “It also promotes androgenesis and neurogenesis.”

Soto says this reduces the need for patients to undergo skin grafting operations. It can also shorten healing time and reduce pain.

“It makes a big difference for patients in general to maintain their quality of life,” Soto said.

Hill’s wife says that 30 days after the fish skin treatment, he was back home.

“It’s amazing,” said Nancy Keith Hill. “He did this porch in one day. I mean, it’s just phenomenal how far it’s come from just that.

Hill says the treatment not only healed her arm, it brought her spirit back to life.

“With my arm rotting and me working with my hands all my life, I thought my life was over,” Hill said. “I felt worthless, to be honest with you, and now I’m able to get back to what I love to do.”

Soto says studies on this new fish skin technology began in 2019. Clinical trials involving hundreds of patients have shown positive results.