When Are Burn Injuries Classified as Catastrophic?

When Are Burn Injuries Classified as Catastrophic?Burn injuries can occur anytime, anywhere, to anyone. It doesn’t matter how careful you are; someone else’s mistake or negligent act could wind up leading to you suffering a serious burn. Burns range in severity from minor to catastrophic and can require extensive treatment to ensure a healthy recovery. The Charlotte, N.C. burn injury attorneys at Warren & Kallianos, PLLC explain the severity of burns and how they can become catastrophic in today’s blog.

What is a burn injury?

By definition, a burn injury results from the skin or deeper tissues having direct exposure to flames, hot liquids, surfaces or other high heat sources. Burns are considered catastrophic because the skin cells under the layers may never resort back to the previous state. This typically depends on the severity of the burn. However, in the event of a more serious burn, a patient may require a surgical procedure known as a skin graft.

What are the different skin layers?

Burn injuries depend greatly on the type of damage done to a person’s skin. In the human body, the skin is the largest organ and its responsibilities are endless. The most important, though, is the skin’s ability to act as a physical barrier between a person’s body and the outside world. If you think about it, without skin, our bodies have no protection against harmful injuries or infection. Skin constantly mends and restores itself while also regulating body temperatures. If layers of the skin are damaged, the functionality of protection it serves us from the world is damaged as well. Our skin consists of three layers:

  • The epidermis: the top layer of the skin.
  • The dermis: the thicker underlayer that consists of sweat glands, hair follicles, and nerve endings that allow us to feel pain.
  • The subcutaneous tissue (also known as the hypodermis): the fat layer that helps the body to maintain temperature.

How are burns classified?

Classification of burns are determined by the severity of damage to the skin.

First-degree burns

Burns that damage only the epidermis or outer layer of skin are classified as first-degree

burns. Although moderately uncomfortable, these burns do not cause long-term damage to tissues. The skin may be red, dry and painful, but there are no formations of blisters. Sunburns are typically classified as first-degree burns. First-degree burns typically fall into the superficial burn category of classification.

Second-degree burns

Any burns that damage both the epidermis and the dermis, the second layer of skin, are classified as second-degree burns. These burns are commonly known as partial-thickness burns and sometimes see the formation of blisters and swelling around the burn area. The skin under the blisters is wet, weepy, pink and painful. After determining whether you suffer from a second-degree burn, there are then two different categories the burn falls under, either superficial or deep second-degree burns. This depends mostly on the depth of the burn as well.

Generally, conservative care can heal superficial second-degree burns. No surgery is required to mend the skin but topical medications can be applied to the burn areas. Proper care ensures the new skin will be able to grow back on the epidermis within one to three weeks. If you suffer from deep second-degree burns, your experience is a little more severe.

Deep second-degree burns exhibit paler than pink skin tones around the burn. Skin sensation is diminished as well. Burns like these require medical attention, and sometimes a skin graft surgery procedure. Before medical professionals conclude with this surgery, the burn wounds are first treated with conservative care. From there, it is gauged whether the wounds can heal on their own.

Third-degree burns

The most catastrophic burn injuries are third-degree burns. More serious than second-degree burns, third degree burns are known as full-thickness burns. Burn damage affects every layer of skin. However, in comparison to second-degree burns, blisters are present and skin color varies from red, pale pink, white and tan. There is also no ability to feel sensation. When a person is unable to feel any pain from a burn, that usually signifies a third-degree burn has occurred.

What is a skin graft?

A skin graft is a surgical procedure in which skin is taken from an unburned area of a victim’s body and placed on the wound once the burn is removed. This procedure is also known as an autograft. Skin grafting is sometimes postponed as a result of other factors, like how much scar tissue has formed around the burn. This is because once the burn is healthier, it is in a better position for the skin graft procedure. It is more beneficial to wait until the burn is healed before a skin graft surgery, because the risk for infection also decreases with time.

Did you suffer a catastrophic burn injury in a car accident or workplace accident? The parties responsible for your burns should be held accountable for their actions. The experienced Charlotte, N.C. burn injury attorneys at Warren & Kallianos, PLLC can investigate the incident that left you injured and fight for your right to compensation. Call our office at 704-377-7777, or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation today.

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