Post Burn Deformity

A burn is an injury caused by intense heat which results in killing the tissue at the burn site. A burn injury may also damage nerve endings and cause extensive pain and discomfort. A burn deformity results when the burn injury causes extensive damage to the skin and other soft tissues which results in deformed skin or body part.

What cause a Burn Deformity?

The following reasons are known to cause burn deformity:

  • Thermal – Such as hot liquids, flame, hot objects and steam.
  • Electrical – Such as high voltage electric current and lightening.
  • Chemical – Such as strong alkalis and acids.
  • Radiation – Such as ultra violet light.
  • Light – Intense light.

What are the different types of Burns?

Burn injuries are classified according to their extent of damage, such as:

First-degree burns – These are also called ‘superficial thickness burns’ and are mostly mild in severity. These types of burns tend to damage the upper layers of the skin without damaging the underlying tissue. These normally heal within 3-5 days with no blistering and minimal scarring.

Second-degree burns – These are also called ‘partial thickness burns’ and cause noticeable blistering. These are quite painful at they develop only in the upper layers of the skin and may require 2-3 weeks to heal or longer.

Third-degree burns – These are also called ‘full thickness burns’ and damage the entire skin, even the deeper underlying layers of skin tissue. There is little or no pain at the site due to complete obliteration of the nerve endings in the area.

Fourth-degree burns – This degree of burn causes extensive damage to underlying tissues, including the bones, muscles and tendons.

Major burn – In case a person suffers from 1st. 2nd or 3rd degree burns which cover more than 15% of the body it is said to a case of major burn.

Minor burn – In case a person suffers from 1st and 2nd degree burns on less than 15% of the body, then this is said to be a case of minor burn.

What are Post Burn Deformities like?

Burns causes the skin cells to be destroyed completely hence the body begins to grow a new layer of skin to replace the lost one. At the time of healing the new tissue tends to get dehydrated and shrivels comparatively. This causes a contracture (shrinking) in the skin tissue of the burn site. A severe contracture results in noticeable deformity and often restricts motion in case the burn is around a joint.

Burn deformity results from contractures. As the scar after a burn injury tends to pull at the edges of the skin this makes the surrounding skin get tightened. The severe contracture of skin in several regions of the body (especially near a joint) can result in burn deformity. This is mainly the result of the skin pulling at the underlying muscles, tendons and ligaments.

How is Post Burn Deformity treated?

The treatment of post-burn deformity varies according to the types of scar mainly. A scar revision surgery is used for treatment of post-burn deformity. There are several techniques used in performing post burn deformity treatments, including:

  • Skin grafting – This treatment involves harvesting healthy skin from another part of the patient’s body and implanting the graft skin on the burn deformity to provide ideal freedom of movement to the affected part of the body.
  • Laser resurfacing – This is an advanced surgical technique which uses high-powered and accurate beam of laser light to smooth the abnormal appearance of the burnt skin surface.
  • Skin flap grafting – This is an advanced form of the skin grafting technique. In this, the surgeon will remove an extensive piece of graft skin with the underlying soft tissue and blood vessels attached to it. This piece of grafted skin is then implanted on the recipient site.

Post-burn deformity is one of the highest aesthetic concerns as well as a significant mobility issue for patients with extensive scarring from burns. Post-burn deformity can be effectively treated using any of the common and advanced treatments available.