Most people know how painful and inconvenient minor burns can be, but if you’ve never experienced a major burn covering a large part of your body, count yourself lucky. As well as the pain of the injury itself, recovery can be painful, not to mention long and riddled with potential complications.
What you experience after a serious burn depends largely on the extent and severity of damage to your skin. There are several types of surgery that may be used to correct burn damage, some performed as soon as possible after your injury and some later in the recovery phase. While every burn surgery is unique, here’s an overview of what you need to know about how these surgeries work.
Burns are classified into three types, increasing in severity. These classifications are:
Serious burn injuries require debridement at the start of treatment, regardless of the nature of the burn. The debridement process cleans the wound and removes skin cells and vascularized bones that are dead or infected. This procedure is necessary before other burn treatments take place.
Covering a burn wound with skin from another source is called grafting, and it may be temporary or permanent. Grafts protect the burn area from infection and additional damage, while also relieving some pain. Burns treated with skin grafts heal more effectively and usually with less scarring. Grafts may be harvested from the patient’s own body or using a temporary medical product in a process called xenografting.
Surgically correcting the scar tissue from a burn wound must take into account the way that skin moves and stretches. This helps healed skin to both look and function better. Z- and W-plasty surgeries get their names from the approximate shapes made during scar correction.
Also called dermabrasion, skin planing is a technique to minimize the appearance of raised scars. While the procedure itself has been used for over a century, modern variations include the use of surgical lasers.
Soft tissues that are damaged by burns may be candidates for reconstructive surgery. The nose, ears, or breasts, for example, can be reconstructed using common plastic surgery techniques. Burns to hands, feet, arms, and legs can require amputation if damage is so severe that reconstruction attempts fail.
With more than 25 years of experience and numerous publications on plastic surgery techniques, I specialize in the procedures that address damage caused by serious burns. Using contemporary advances in microsurgery and skin graft technology, I have refined skin grafting procedures to reduce the impact of keloid scars while avoiding other typical failings of conventional grafting procedures. Contact my office by phone or book a consultation online to learn more about how burn surgery can help you.