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Padgett-Hood-type dermatome, England, 1978-1980

The dermatome was an important new tool as it enabled surgeons to remove skin quickly and easily for grafting to treat burns victims. Often referred to as plastic surgery, these techniques were greatly advanced during the twentieth century, especially during and after the Second World War. Used in skin-grafting to remove varying thickness of skin, the drum handle was held in the left hand and the knife handle was held in the right. The drum, coated with rubber, would be placed on the skin and the knife moved from side to side as the drum rotated. Skin removed from the top and middle layers sticks to the rubber coating and can then be grafted on to the damaged areas. The instrument was created in 1939 and is named after its inventors, Earl Padgett (1893-1946), a plastic surgeon, and George Hood, a mechanical engineer.

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    Glossary: burns

    tissue damage caused by such agents as heat, cold, chemicals, electricity, ultraviolet light, or nuclear radiation. A first-degree burn affects only the outer layer (epidermis) of the skin. In a second-degree burn both the epidermis and the underlying dermis are damaged. A third-degree burn involves damage or destruction of the skin to its full depth and damage to the tissues beneath. Burns cause swelling and blistering, due to loss of plasma from damaged blood vessels.

    Glossary: dermatome

    an instrument for cutting thin skin slices for grafting

    Glossary: skin grafting

    A process to move skin from one part of the body to another. Usually carried out as treatment for burns or other extensive skin wounds.

    Glossary: plastic surgery

    A surgical speciality dealing with the restoration or construction of the body. Often used to refer to elective surgery done for aesthetic reasons.