Advancing outcomes for burns patients

For a child, suffering a burn can have long-lasting impact, both physically and on their overall wellbeing. Thanks to the support of The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Foundation and our generous community, burns patients’ outcomes will be improved through the appointment of Dr Monique Bertinetti as the new Academic Burns Surgeon.

An incredibly accomplished clinician and passionate researcher, Monique joins the RCH Burns Service after a successful career in Sydney. It was here that Monique’s passion for improving outcomes for children with burns was inspired by her mentor, Dr John Harvey, Ex-Director of the Burns Unit and Honorary Paediatric and Burns Surgeon at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

Through her work with Dr Harvey, Monique learnt to push the boundaries in order to achieve the best outcomes for burns patients.

Monique provides a holistic approach to burns care, highlighting that young burn victims are fighting an ongoing battle not only physically but also emotionally. Burns cause varying degrees of scar outcomes, some of which may limit physical movement or be debilitating with an itch and pain. Scarring is often visual which can significantly lower a child’s self-esteem.

Monique’s appointment at the RCH has been made possible through the generous support of transformative gifts in Wills from individuals including Marjorie Tivendale and Laurie Davies. Along with the appointment of the Academic Burns Surgeon, their support has also funded several advancements across the service.

“Marjorie and Laurie’s gifts have empowered our team to think bigger, and further into the future than we ever have before. Thanks to their support, we have been able to establish the position of an Academic Burns Surgeon to expand our team’s research capabilities,” said Associate Professor Warwick Teague, Director of the Trauma Service and Clinical Lead for the Burns Service.

Since joining the RCH team just over a year ago, Monique has already made waves in the treatment and care for burns survivors, combining her knowledge and experience with the state of the art programs and equipment available at the RCH.

For Warwick, Monique’s appointment will mean that the Burns Service is able to meet the rising clinical demand and maintain the standards of excellence expected in a high volume service.

“We’re thrilled to have Monique join the team. The new surgical position brings together clinical research and clinical care, with a focus on translating research outcomes into better and utmost care for children with burns injuries,” said Warwick.

One particular area of Monique’s work focuses on improving the thickness, pliability and appearance of scars. In collaboration with the team in the Burns Service, Monique is implementing two new ways of effectively treating burn scars; microneedling and the use of the new fractional ablative CO2 laser, made possible thanks to funding from the RCH Foundation.

“The laser works by creating multiple microthermal zones in the scar which in turn sets off a cascade promoting collagen remodelling. This improves the thickness, pliability, and colour of the scars and ultimately how these kids feel about themselves. Microneedling works similarly via collagen induction, improving the overall appearance of the scars,” said Monique.

Monique perfected these treatments at the dedicated paediatric burns scar clinic at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney, which was introduced to determine whether these techniques were truly yielding positive results. Monique has been able to compare pre and post-treatment outcomes to establish effectiveness utilising patient reported outcome measures and objective methods including ultrasound and cutometer scans.

“We were able to look at the pre and post scar assessment scales and it was evident after three treatments of microneedling or laser that these scars were improving,” said Monique.

As well as integrating these innovative techniques, Monique is introducing a number of new initiatives which will change the long-term outcomes for patients presenting to the RCH with burns, in particular those with facial burns.

“We can now use collagen impregnated sheet-like dressings or dermal substitutes for acute burns which can decrease the length of stay and improve pain, healing time and scar outcomes. For full thickness facial burns we can utilise elastin containing dermal substitutes which can help to retain patients’ facial features and movements.” said Monique.

As the designated state-wide burns service for paediatrics in Victoria, the RCH Burns Service features a team of surgeons, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, child-life therapists, social workers, photographers, prosthetists, and anaesthetists treating around 1,000 new burns cases annually. Thanks to clinicians like Monique and Warwick, their future looks bright.

“The Burns Service is constantly adapting and changing, by looking for new technology to improve the treatment of acute burns. From non-surgical enzymatic debridement to encourage healing of tissue whilst restricting blood loss, utilising new virtual reality technology to improve the patient’s experience,” said Monique.

“I have a team that want to embrace innovation, who are pushing boundaries and making sure we have the best care in Australia. We share common goals, and we need more funding to grow and further our research,” she added.

You can help improve outcomes for children with burns injuries and support the mental wellbeing of RCH burns patients by donating to the RCH Foundation today.