The American Burn Association reports that nearly half a million Americans suffer thermal burn injuries each year, resulting in approximately 40,000 hospitalizations and 3,400 deaths annually.
Despite the alarming statistics, the survival rate among burn victims is high. This is largely attributable to advances in research, medicine, and technology in the field of burn injury care. Behind a patient’s survival lies an enormous amount of resources related to injury treatment.
Houston burn injury lawyers want you to know there have been a number of exciting advances in burn treatment. While this is great news, those new treatments also come at a high cost. If you have experienced a severe burn injury, the best course of action is to find legal representation now because the journey to recovery, while almost certain, is also long and costly.
Mortality is Down!
The best news is that there has been a significant improvement in the survival rates of burn victims, with current figures nearing 80% for adult burn victims in the United States.
While patient care remains a priority, much of the credit is due to advances in research and technology. From new flammable materials to improved treatment regimens.
Advances in Burn Treatment
Thermal burns can cause severe damage to the victim’s skin, requiring focused wound care, infection prevention, and even excision and skin grafts. Eschar excision and skin grafting has long been the standard of care. Skin grafting can be accomplished through different methods. An autograft is where skin from a donor site on the same patient is used. One benefit to the autograft is that there is no risk of rejection. However, the donor sites are painful. Moreover, autografts may not be feasible in the case of extensive burns covering large surface areas.
An autograft is where skin from a non-related cadaver donor or a human skin bank is used. These are the most commonly used grafts, and autografting falls second after allogeneic transplants due to the lower risk of disease transmission. Skin grafting can be categorized as either full thickness or partial thickness.
The advantages of autografts include no risk of disease transmission or rejection; thus eliminating the need for immunosuppressive therapy. A disadvantage of autografts is the risk of disease transmission between the donor and recipient sites.
If autografts are not possible, doctors can opt for an expanded skin graft: split-thickness or full-thickness. Full thickness is the best option due to its ability to incorporate hair follicles, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands. The donor site can be as small as the size of a coin, or larger areas can be grafted together to create a mass graft. In some cases, there may not be enough viable skin for skin grafting (including after an escharotomy) and a flap procedure (or a primary closure) must be performed.
Cell-based burn treatments
Cell-based burn treatments have been studied for over 50 years as a treatment for deep burns. Medicine has taken huge leaps in the past decade, and more and more researchers are pushing the envelope to see if there is a more ideal way to treat those with severe burns than current methods.
Scientists in Japan have recently reported the successful growth of skin. What makes this discovery particularly significant is that the researchers were able to grow hair follicles and sweat glands. Why is this exciting? In short, it could be especially valuable for burn victims.
Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology have been able to successfully grow skin with hair follicles and sweat glands using a technique that was previously unavailable.
This study shows some potential for growing new human skin with the hopes that it will be more successful than animal-based skin grafts for burn victims. The researchers sloughed off a layer cultured the cells in a culture dish. They used cells from the mouse but hope to eventually use human cells instead. The scientists think this technique could lead to new ways to test future drugs that could possibly save burn victims.
This is an exciting development for burn victims, as they could use this tissue to help reconstruct their skin after a fire or other exposure.
There are many programs used by the burn and wound community to assist in tracking the healing of dermal wounds, as well as monitoring the progress of burn patients. Some more common are ProScribe, DeepSee, IsmGuide, Viatrace, ScrubChart and most recently WoundFlow. Each program has its own unique features.
WoundFlow was designed to make tracking burn healing easier and more effective than the paper diagram method. Before WoundFlow, recovery time reports were based on a combination of hospital records, interviews with personnel, and basic calculations. This process was less than ideal. The new program tracks patient information and recovery time in a single online program
These new technologies were developed to enhance the care medical professionals can provide to their patients. It is important that burn survivors know what care is available to them. Burn injuries are both physically and emotionally painful. The best way to move forward after a burn injury is with as much up-to-date knowledge of treatment techniques available.
Types of Burn Injuries
The severity if a burn injury is factored on a scale from first degree to fourth degree. Accident severity and the treatment needed for such an injury is a major point of emphasis for a personal injury attorney. These include:
First-degree–Similar to a sunburn, this is an injury that only affects the outer layer of skin.
Second-degree–A burn injury involving multiple layers of tissue and serious enough to necessitate medical. Short exposure to fire and scalding liquids are typical causes of second-degree burns.
Third-degree–These extend through all layers of skin, damaging nerve tissue, and considered to be medical emergencies. Scarring is common, and at times amputation may be needed. Chemical fires, building fires, and electrical fires often result in third-degree burns.
Fourth-degree–The result of this is catastrophic damage to the body and is sometimes fatal. The damage extends through the dermis into muscle, fat tissue, and bone and usually requires amputation. Extended exposure to open flames and high voltage electrical shocks can cause fourth-degree injuries.
New Technology but Still Lasting Consequences
We’re living in a golden age of burn treatment. Advances in the way burn victims are treated have reduced mortality rates by over 50% since the 1960s. And it is not just adults who are reaping the benefits; a 2009 study conducted by the American Burn Association found that more children now survive burn injuries than 15 years ago, in large part due to improved care at the scene of the incident.
The psychological fallout from serious burns can be just as devastating: burn victims often experience long-term depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mood disorders. Some victims are hospitalized immediately after sustaining their injury. Others have the chance to prepare for the road ahead: they are usually taken by ambulance first to the nearest emergency room where they can be stabilized quickly, and then transferred by helicopter or plane for treatment at larger medical centers.
Life is never the same for a burn victim who survives. The physical pain, disability, and disfigurement are as devastating as the psychological trauma that often leads to drug and alcohol abuse and depression. Burn victims who survive these injuries face a daily struggle just to cope with their plight. They have many years of anticipated painful surgeries, reconstructive procedures, and ongoing rehabilitation ahead of them in their struggle to live normal lives again.