Severe Burn Causes
Thousands of people visit the hospital each year to receive severe burn treatment for second and third degree burns caused by:
- Flames or fire
- Scalding liquid
- Contact with an extremely hot object
- Electrical burns
- Chemical burns
How to Tell if a Burn is Severe
To tell if a burn requires immediate medical attention, consider the following:
- How much of the body has been affected by the burn? A large burn area means that it is probably classified as a severe burn injury. If you have a large burn area, the sooner you seek medical help, the better.
- How deep does the burn go? While a mild burn may blister, becoming red or pink in color, a severe burn injury can literally char the skin. A severe charred burn will make the injured skin white or black in color. This means the burned skin is dead and unable to heal.
Skin Grafts for Burns
A skin graft procedure may be used for a number of medical reasons. For severe burn treatment, a surgeon may perform a skin graft by applying healthy skin to the patient’s severely burned area. The healthy skin is rich in oxygen due to continued blood flow since it was uninjured. In some cases, the skin graft bonds with the damaged skin to heal the burn wound. In other cases, the skin graft simply suffices as a covering long enough for the burn wound to begin to close on its own.
Types of Skin Grafts
Depending on the degree of the burn, the overall health of the patient, and the level of healing required, doctors may use a variety of three different types of skin grafts:
- Xenograft – This type of skin graft is for a severe burn that only needs a temporary skin graft. It is for the lightest level of burn healing that still requires surgery. A xenograft is a temporary covering for the burned area. It is essentially skin that is harvested from an animal. Pigs are the most common animal to provide xenografts. All xenografts are eventually rejected by the patient’s body, within three to five days, which is why they are only a temporary solution.
- Allograft – This type of skin graft is for a severe burn that requires an immediate solution, but the patient may be unable to withstand supplying his or her own skin graft at the time. Allografts are skin grafts taken from human cadavers and may be used in place of xenografts. Similar to xenografts, allografts will eventually be rejected by the patient’s body. However, skin graft rejection takes longer, around seven to ten days.
- Autograft – An autograft is for patients who have been severely burned and are healthy enough to supply their own skin graft. Healthy skin is taken from an injured area of the patient’s body and transplanted to the severely injured area with second or third degree burns. This form of skin graft is the only one that will not eventually be rejected by the patient’s body.
Skin Graft Healing
To heal, a skin graft needs to be moisturized regularly, infused with oxygen, and the process needs to be monitored by a medical professional to prevent infection. Most skin grafts require weeks to months for full recovery. In some less traumatic cases, a xenograft or allograft may only require several days of medical observation to heal. Regardless of the length of time, skin grafts are extremely painful and stressful for the patient. If a severe burn injury occurs, it is important to seek medical help immediately to minimize the need for skin grafts and length of recovery time.
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