According to the American Burn Association, nearly all burn victims – 96.7 percent – will survive, but most of them experience serious scarring or physical disabilities. That’s where plastic surgeons come in. Those who specialize in burn care treatment can provide proper care to alleviate pain and reduce scarring in damaged skin, using techniques such as burn debridement, skin grafts and scar revisions.
In honor of this year’s National Burn Awareness Week, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons highlighted how these physicians help with the recovery process and can significantly improve quality of life for burn survivors.
Treating burn victims
While trauma surgeons typically perform the acute surgery immediately after the burn injury, plastic surgeons perform reconstructive procedures after the wound has begun to heal. During the healing process, burn patients may begin to experience chronic itching, scarring and other pain at the wound site. The goal of reconstructive surgery is to improve the cosmetic appearance of scars and increase the function and range of motion that may have been limited by the damaged skin. The ASPS reported that plastic surgeons performed more than 16,000 reconstructive burn procedures in 2016.
Plastic surgeons apply several techniques to burn care, including nerve decompression, laser resurfacing and fat grafting. C. Scott Hultman, M.D., Professor of Plastic Surgery at the University of North Carolina, reported to the ASPS that fat grafting has an 80 percent success rate on burn patients and said, “The most exciting thing that only 10 percent of this patient population had a surgical solution a decade ago, but today 90 percent have undergone some type of surgery that benefited them.”
Thus, plastic surgery has been a promising tool for treating burn wounds. One burn survivor told the ASPS that her plastic surgeon helped her recover from the traumatic experience. She concluded, “Plastic surgeons have seen countless devastating injuries, and their sense of knowledge, artistic vision and experience bring comfort and trust to the burn patient.”
Plastic surgery for general wound care
Plastic surgery techniques are useful for other wounds in addition to burn injuries. By performing microsurgeries, plastic surgeons can reattach lost fingers, toes or ears by sewing the nerves back together. Tissue expansions allow the skin to stretch and grow to correct the damage caused by a wound. The advantages of tissue expansion are minimal scarring and the accurate matching of skin color and texture.
As plastic surgery techniques continue to advance, they will remain a viable treatment option for burns and other wounds.
Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in delivering specialized wound care supplies to patients, delivering to both homes and long-term care facilities.