Burning your skin is a very traumatic experience and can leave behind scars that remind one of the traumatic incident. Scarring caused by burns may fade a little with time but are usually permanent. Apart from affecting your appearance severe burns can also affect the functioning of the body. Burns can make a person withdraw socially by making him or her afraid of how people will accept them with their scars as well as make them depressed about their appearance.
Burn repair surgery can be categorised under two headings: Acute and Reconstructive
- Acute repair surgery happens immediately after the burn and deals with large burns and deep burns that affect critical areas. The focus here is to aim for saving of life of burn patient with earliest wound healing with various surgical means.
- Reconstructive burn surgery addresses the deformities & scars after the initial burn wounds have healed. The goal here is to improve the appearance of the scars and ensure improvement of functioning.
There are many types of reconstructive surgeries for burns and the type of surgery best suited to a patient is based on the location of the scar, the extent of scarring and the patient’s personal goals.
- Skin grafts: This involves the removal of healthy skin from one part of the body and transplanting it to the burn site. This split thickness skin graft include only a few outer layers of skin & full thickness graft involve the entire dermis. This is used in cases of deep burns where full thickness of dermis is affected. Also skin grafts are used for defects following release of burn contracture .
- Flaps: These are thick skin tissues with its own blood supply, used to cover exposed vital structures like vessels , tendons, nerves, bones, etc especially in deep electrical burns of extremities.
- Free flap procedure: In this Microvascular Surgery , muscle, bone or skin is transferred from one part of the body to another to reconstruct huge defects after contracture release or for cosmetic improvement of ugly burn scars.
- Tissue expansion: This involves the insertion of a balloon expander under the skin near the burn scars & deformities. As the balloon is filled with saline, the skin stretches and grows. Once the skin has stretched enough, the expander is removed and the skin can then be used to replace the burn scars & deformities.
This procedure has many advantages as the skin colour and texture are a near perfect match thus reducing scarring to a large extent. However, it is a very slow procedure and can take a few months.
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