Burn Injuries and Treatment

Burn Injuries and TreatmentBurns caused by flames and fire are classified as thermal burns. The severity of a burn injury depends on a number of factors including the percentage of the body that has been burned, the age of the burn victim and the burn victim's medical history. The following article provides a general overview of the degrees of burns and stages of treatment. If you were severely burned in a fire, a personal injury attorney can evaluate your case and help you recover compensation for your injuries and pain.

Degrees of Burns

First-degree burns are burns in which only the outer layers of skin are burned. With first-degree burns, there is typically redness, inflammation caused by the accumulation of fluids and blisters. First-degree burns generally heal quickly.

Second-degree burns are more serious and the burn is generally deep enough to damage some of the dermal layer of skin. There are two subcategories of second-degree burns. A “superficial partial burn” involves damage to the upper dermal tissues and is characterized by blistering and swelling. These burns usually heal within 14 to 17 days, but there may be permanent changes in skin color and texture. With a “deep partial-thickness burn,” the epidermis and most of the dermis are destroyed. With this type of burn there is reddening, discoloration, swelling and severe pain. Deep partial-thickness burns may heal within three to four weeks, but skin grafts may be necessary and scars are common.

Third-degree burns are burns classified by the destruction of the entire epidermis and the dermis. With third-degree burns the skin may look white, showing the subcutaneous fat beneath the burned skin, or it may look charred or bright red. With third-degree burns, nerve endings are often destroyed, so they actually may be less painful than second-degree burns.

Some authorities classify a separate type of burn as fourth-degree burns. With a fourth-degree burn, all skin levels, as well as the subcutaneous fatty tissue and perhaps some of the bone or muscle are destroyed. Grafts and local and regional flaps are sometimes necessary to cover the wounds.

Treatment of Burn Injuries

Treatment for burn injuries can be categorized into three stages: critical, acute and chronic.

  • Critical: The goals of this stage are emergency stabilization and avoidance of complications such as shock and organ damage. The critical stage consists of initial first-aid treatment and taking the burn victim to the hospital while keeping him or her clean and warm. 
  • Acute: The goals of this stage are to control infection and close the wound, which involves removing dead tissue and grafting new tissue or allowing scar tissue to develop. Grafting is the process of removing a layer of skin from an undamaged portion of the patient's body and placing it on the wound. During the acute stage, there is danger of the scar tissue permanently deforming the patient's limbs and posture. To prevent this from happening, the patient must be exercised to retain flexibility. 
  • Chronic: The goals of this stage are to try to restore normal appearance and regain a more normal emotional and psychological status. The patient may have plastic surgery to fix scars or other disfigurements. With severe burns, it is almost impossible to return to a "normal" appearance, but plastic surgery may help improve the patient's emotional well-being. 


Individuals who are severely burned face long and painful recoveries that may extend well beyond any time spent in a hospital or burn unit. Burn victims may experience problems for the rest of their lives, including the inability to regulate body temperatures or feel temperature sensation. Victims of serious burns may have scars that require plastic surgery to fix, and even then, they may not return to their "normal appearance." If you or a loved one has been severely burned, talk to an attorney about recovering compensation for your injuries.

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