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Burn Injury - Serious Burns

Burn injuries can occur whenever your skin is exposed to heat, chemicals, sunlight, electricity or radiation. Some of the most common causes of burn injuries are fires, scalds from hot liquids and exposure to flammable liquids and gases.

If you have sustained a burn injury, you may need to undergo skin grafts and other cosmetic surgery procedures, which may be extremely costly and not often covered by health insurance. Burn injuries also cause significant emotional and financial strain on victims and their families.

Burn Injury Statistics

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is a fire-related death every 169 minutes and a burn injury every 30 minutes in the United States. Approximately 85 percent of all fire deaths in 2009 occurred in homes. Not counting firefighters, 2,640 people were killed and 13,350 were injured in home fires in the United States in the year 2010. Most victims of home fires are not killed from burns but from smoke inhalation and from breathing in toxic gases.

Home fires are not the only cause of burn injuries. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, approximately one in seven fires responded to by fire departments involve highway vehicles. Between the years 2008 and 2010, there were about 194,000 highway vehicle fires each year resulting in 300 deaths and 1,250 injuries annually.

Causes of Burn Injuries

Cooking is the primary cause of residential fires, but smoking is the leading cause of fire-related deaths. Over a third of all home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms and alcohol is a contributing factor in an estimated 40 percent of residential fire deaths. There is typically an increase in fire-related deaths during the winter months because more people stay home to cook and there is an increase of the use of heating devices and chimneys.

When someone suffers a burn injury in a car fire, it must be determined if the fire was caused by a defect in the vehicle. When burn injuries are suffered at work, an investigation will be needed to review the safety policy of the employer and the negligence of the property owner.

Burn Degrees

Some burn injuries can heal with limited medical treatment while others require complicated procedures such as skin grafts. Depending on the severity of the damage suffered by the body's tissues, the burn will be classified as a first-, second- or third- degree burn:

  • First-degree burns: This is when only the outer layer of the skin (Epidermis) is damaged.
  • Second-degree burns: In a second-degree burn, the outer layer of the skin is damaged as well as the layer of skin directly underneath it (dermis).
  • Third-degree burns: This is when the deepest layer of skin is damaged or destroyed. In third-degree burns, there is likely damage to the surrounding tissues as well.

Burn Injury Symptoms

Burn injuries can result in blistering, swelling, scarring, shock and even death. The skin is a protective sheath on your body. So when the skin suffers damage, the body is vulnerable to infections and additional injuries. Those who have suffered a first-degree burn will likely be able to promote the healing process with antibiotic creams. Victims of third-degree burns, however, will need additional care to encourage new skin to grow. In such cases, victims often require skin grafts.

Skin Grafts

Skin grafting involves the transplantation of skin from a healthy part of the body to an area of the body where the skin has been permanently damaged. This type of surgical procedure is typically reserved for victims who have suffered a serious injury. A successful skin graft will reduce the amount of treatment needed for the damaged part of the body and improve the appearance of the area that receives the graft.

Some victims of burn injuries require grafts where only a thin layer is removed from the donor section while others require a full thickness skin graft. Full thickness grafts are typically more painful and there is a greater chance that the body will not accept the skin.

Prognosis for Burn Injury Victims

Victims of serious burns over large portions of their body a few decades ago had very slim chances of surviving. Medical technology has improved to the point where victims who have suffered burn injuries over 90 percent of their body can now survive. They will, however, have permanent impairments and scars. Even immediate treatment at a burn center will not result in a complete recovery if the damage is extensive and deep. These are no doubt catastrophic injuries.

The expenses related to the treatment of burn injuries can add up quickly. Many victims require multiple procedures and lengthy hospital stays. Victims and their families would be well advised to seek counsel and obtain access to the resources they need during these challenging times.


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