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"I'm not shackled by this condition any more."

Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) is not a well-known condition. And it’s not easy to discuss. This chronic, inflammatory disease causes lesions across a patient’s body, especially in areas near joints – under the arms, the groin, and along the thighs, to name a few. The abscesses and nodules brought on by HS are quite painful and often rupture, releasing an unpleasant odor. This causes many patients with the condition to suffer from shame, embarrassment, and depression. In fact, HS patients have a much-increased risk of suicide over the general population.

daniel l

Daniel L., a Baton Rouge General patient, has been living with HS since he was a teenager. “Depending on the location of an HS flareup, it can feel like you’re being stabbed over and over. It’s emotionally’re just existing. It affects what kind of clothes you wear. You feel like you have to stay home. I suffer with depression, and having HS definitely made that worse. My symptoms started when I was around 17, and I’m 35 now. I was lucky enough to visit a dermatologist in Baton Rouge who identified the condition correctly, so I’ve been receiving treatment for a long time.”

For years, treatment for HS primarily included excision of the abscesses and nodules, which are often half an inch to an inch deep in the skin. Once excised, the wound would be sutured and covered with dressing, and the patient’s activity would be restricted, because the size of the wound and the fragility of the skin around it would make it prone to reopening, leading to more procedures, more pain, and more time spent in recovery. “Medically, I would be released from the hospital, but I was constantly worried that any regular daily activities could reopen the wounds.” In addition to excision, HS patients often undergo skin graft procedures that come with the added burden of lengthy hospital stays and painful recovery. Daniel underwent these procedures many times. “Having a skin graft done is like having a burn. It’s a very painful surgery.”

After years of following these treatment protocols, Daniel visited BRG physician Dr. Stephen Gordon in 2016 upon the recommendation of a friend whose daughter lives with HS. Dr. Gordon recommended an entirely new course of treatment – amnion transplant.

Amnion transplants are done using tissue from the amniotic membrane. The membrane encloses and protects an embryo as it develops in its mother’s womb. After birth, mothers can choose to donate this substance for use in treating and healing otherwise incurable wounds. Baton Rouge General’s Labor & Delivery team is fortunate to care for many new mothers who choose to make this donation to help patients like Daniel. Amnion transplants have helped patients heal from severe burns, extensive surgeries, and wounds caused by diseases like diabetes. Dr. Gordon has used amnion to successfully treat hernias, too.

Treating HS with amnion is a new application of this versatile tissue. SurgiGRAFT Micronized Amniotic Tissue is first injected into the affected area of the body, which helps the amnion reach the capillaries surrounding the wound. Then, surgiGRAFT, a surgical product created using amnion, is placed on top of the wound in place of a traditional skin graft. Daniel underwent his first amniotic transplant three years ago. “Skin grafts can fail and they take a long time to heal, but with the amnion transplant I experienced much more success. Before this treatment, I would be in recovery for anywhere from one to two months. With the amnion transplant treatments, I recover in less than a month.”

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of amnion transplants in treating HS is that once an area is treated with amnion, there are no recurring flare ups in that spot. With amnion treatments, lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. “I heal a lot faster now. The post-op pain is significantly lower, and after a few days of prescribed pain medications, I can manage it with OTCs. I can go socialize and have a life! I’m not shackled by this condition anymore. I have more confidence.”

Daniel shared his story because of the success he’s found with amnion transplants, and because he knows very well the stigma attached to having HS. “Many people say it’s more prominent in overweight people. Not true. People worry that having it means you’re unclean. Not true.” Because this stigma can be a barrier to seeking treatment, Daniel especially appreciated the care he received from his physician at Baton Rouge General. “Dr. Gordon treats you like a person, not a chart number. He builds a rapport with you, makes conversation, and listens to your story. And because he is experienced in treating HS, he can recommend the best treatment protocol for you.”

Daniel offered this advice to others living with HS: “Do your research. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re not limited to just surgery. There are lots of treatment options out there and more is being discovered every day. When it gets overwhelming, take a step back from it and remember to breathe – there is a light at the end of this tunnel.”