KCI – Helping Humans and Animals Heal

Mike Barger

If you’ve followed Andre’s journey, you know KCI’s V.A.C.® Therapy was instrumental in the sea turtle’s recovery. But who is KCI? And what does their VAC do? We sat down with Mike Barger, Corporate Communications Manager of KCI, to learn more.

Q: Mike, what can you tell us about KCI?
A: Kinetic Concepts, Inc. is a leading global medical technology company devoted to the discovery, development, manufacture and marketing of innovative, high-technology therapies and products for the wound care, tissue regeneration and therapeutic support system markets.

Headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, KCI’s success spans more than three decades and can be traced to a history deeply rooted in innovation and a passion for significantly improving the healing and the lives of patients around the world. The company employs approximately 7,100 people and markets its products in more than 20 countries.

Q:  How did KCI become involved in Andre’s treatment?
  Andre arrived at Loggerhead Marinelife Center on June 15, 2010 in very bad shape.  He was found stranded on a sandbar on Juno Beach.  Loggerhead’s staff Veterinarian Dr. Nancy Mettee examined Andre and found more than three pounds of sand weighing on his organs, causing severe displacement and infection, including a collapsed lung, pneumonia and a badly damaged shell.  Dr. Mettee reached out to a colleague at a nearby hospital for guidance in treating Andre’s wounds and was eventually directed to a representative from KCI.

Q:  What part did V.A.C. Therapy play in Andre’s recovery?
Andre began receiving V.A.C.® Therapy when he was found in mid-June 2010.  He continued to receive the therapy until and including the day of his release.  V.A.C.® Therapy works to “help fill in” soft tissue wounds, such as those sustained when Andre was struck multiple times by a boat propeller.

Q:  How does V.A.C. Therapy work and had it ever been used on an animal before Andre?
  By using negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), essentially a vacuum, blood flow is stimulated and wound tissues are pulled together, helping the wound to heal.  After a month and a half of V.A.C.® Therapy, the body cavity under Andre’s broken “shell” or carapace was prepared to be treated with Strattice™ Reconstructive Tissue Matrix.  This was the first ever implantation of Strattice in an animal in the world.

V.A.C.® Therapy, on the other hand, has been used on animals in the past, including a Kimodo Dragon at the Singapore Zoo and another giant turtle at the San Antonio Zoo.  With the launch of KCI’s Animal Health division in 2010, V.A.C.® Therapy is being used more frequently on companion animals, such as cats and dogs, as well as horses.

Q:  How was negative pressure on Andre’s wounds even possible underwater?
While V.A.C.® Therapy has been used on animals before, it has never been used in an underwater environment.  Because negative pressure is needed for the therapy to be successful, we needed to devise a way to make sure we could maintain that air-tight seal in Andre’s underwater environment.  A KCI nurse assisting in Andre’s treatment determined silicone caulk (the stuff used in bathrooms and showers) would work – and it did.  The staff at Loggerhead was able to keep the V.A.C. Dressing on Andre both in and out of the water.

Q:  Had this ever been done before?
  We’d never used V.A.C. Therapy underwater.  This was a first.

Q:  What is Strattice?
Strattice™ Reconstructive Tissue Matrix is a sterile reconstructive tissue matrix that supports tissue regeneration. Derived from porcine dermis, dermal cells are removed, significantly reducing the key component believed to play a major role in the xenogeneic rejection response.

KCI worked with Dr. Mettee to implant Strattice in Andre.  It acts as a scaffold allowing the tissue in Andre’s wounds to revascularize and repopulate with his own functional, living tissue.  This was the first time every Strattice was implanted in an animal (note that Andre is, in fact, technically a reptile).

Q:  How is Strattice traditionally used in human patients?
  Physicians most often use Strattice for hernia repair and breast reconstruction post-mastectomy.

Q:  Were you confident Strattice would work?
Having seen the success of Strattice in human patients, representatives at KCI felt confident that Strattice could make a measurable difference in Andre’s outcome.  Fortunately, it has been very effective in filling in his wounds, and we are very pleased with what we’ve seen in Andre’s successful healing.

Q:  Did KCI donate the V.A.C. and Strattice to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center?
  Yes, the KCI products used in Andre’s treatment were given as an in-kind donation.

Q:  How much would this type of treatment cost?
It is difficult to calculate the cost of Andre’s treatment, due to its novelty and the many adaptations that were implemented (waterproofing, unique dressing changes, etc.) to ensure a successful outcome. We’re really not able to put a price-tag on Andre’s treatment.  We’re just happy we were able to help.

Q:  What’s Andre’s long-term prognosis?
We are very pleased with Andre’s recovery and the team at Loggerhead is confident he’s in good enough shape to return to a normal life.  That’s a great sign.  Just as in human patients who’ve been treated with V.A.C. Therapy and who receive Strattice, we expect Andre to lead a productive, healthy life.

Q:  Since Strattice seems to have worked well in Andre, do you plan to begin using it in other animal patients?
We’re thrilled this product performed well in Andre.  And since Andre, there have been a few occasions when we’ve used Strattice in animals.  Right now, our Animal Health business has V.A.C.® Therapy.  To be able to broaden our bag and bring more KCI products into the business and to veterinarians would be a really big step forward.  We’re very excited by what we’ve seen.