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What is an Amniotic Membrane and How is it Used?

Most of us are familiar with the term amniotic with regard to the protective fluid around a fetus before birth. However, it has other special properties useful in eye surgeries and injuries.

Let’s investigate what an amniotic membrane is and how it’s used.

Amniotic Membrane

Amniotic membrane is the innermost layer of the placenta tissue closest to the fetus, and it separates the mother from the fetus throughout the baby’s development. Eventually scientists discovered it had medicinal uses and therapeutic properties outside the womb and began to harvest it.

At first it was difficult to keep stable. It could only be kept for 6 weeks then only at the right temperature.

In 2006 scientists developed a method to clean, prepare and dehydrate the membrane for surgical uses. It could be cut into sections and stored for up to five years. It was stable at room temperature and easy to handle.

Properties of the Amniotic Membrane

Amniotic membrane is comprised of 3 parts: collagen, regenerative materials and active cells.

Because the tissue is rich in collagen it can be used by eye surgeons to repair, protect and heal damaged ocular surfaces. It has properties which improve wound healing and prevent the formation of scars.

In effect it can act as a tissue bandage for corneal infections and reconstruction. It becomes like a dressing to promote healing and can even be used for children.

Amniotic membrane is used as:

  • A surgical graft where the tissue is glued or sutured on. In this case the tissue is integrated into the area. The purpose is to regenerate new tissue over the amniotic membrane and not leave a scar.
  • A bandage that is temporary and epithelium is expected to grow underneath. The amniotic membrane will eventually slough off typically in about 14 days.

Multiple Benefits for Ophthalmology

Transplanting preserved human amniotic membrane is considered a major new development in eye surgery. Damaged eye surfaces now can be treated with amniotic membrane (AM) to speed healing and reduce pain.

  • Treats certain eye diseases and corneal defects
  • Aids in treating chemical burns
  • Healing after the surgical removal of a pterygium
  • Ocular surface wound management
  • Ocular ulcers
  • Post-surgical wounds
  • Diabetic neurovascular ulcers

Because it is a single epithelium layer it helps heal wounds of the eye and aids in the regeneration of tissue. It acts as a skin substitute as it reduces inflammations and pain.

Amniotic membrane is recognized as a major advance in the reconstructive surgery of ocular surfaces and currently AM now has potential to be used in Orthopedics, OB/GYN, Periodontology and general Dentistry.

You can be sure that South Texas Eye Institute will always search out new methods and developments in the ocular world. You can expect the most advanced techniques for the health of your eyes.

If you have questions about Amniotic Membrane use, contact our office.