Burns are a common everyday problem. Most of us have experienced burns to a small degree that they do not cause major issue. However, when burns cover a larger area of the body or are more than just skin-deep, they can lead to dehydration, infection, prolonged healing, and bad scarring, leading to functional problems in the future. This is particularly pertinent in burns covering > 15% of the body surface area or involving sensitive areas such as the groin and hands. Also, where burns have been caused by more than fire and scalding, such as in electrical or chemical burns, specialist treatment must be sought to treat or rule out any untoward sequelae such as heart or electrolyte issues.
Can surgery treat burns?
Surgery for burns encompasses both the acute and chronic problems caused by burns. If the burn is deep and extensive, early surgery to clean the burns and apply specialized dressings (e.g., BiobraneTM) or skin grafts can help to hasten healing and reduce scarring. If burns get infected, surgery, along with antibiotic therapy, may be needed to clean the wounds to allow for unimpeded healing. Finally, once the burns have healed, they may cause cosmetic or functional issues, such as facial scarring or scar contractures in the joints. Plastic surgery can improve both appearance and function for all sorts of burns injuries.
What other treatments do burn injuries require?
While most small and shallow burns can be managed with dressings, deeper and larger burns may require surgery, as well as other treatments including antibiotic treatment, intensive care management, multi-disciplinary therapist management, and post-healing scar therapy.
What should I do if I sustain a burn?
If you sustain a burn which is larger than the size of your palm, and where there is blistering and skin loss, do seek medical advice. In instances where you may have inhaled fire-related smoke, sustained electrical or chemical burns, when you think you have been burned more deeply over a large surface area, or when your wounds are infected, seek treatment as soon as possible. GP clinics, polyclinics and emergency departments will be able to refer you to recommended plastic surgical services.