Our body is composed of cells and tissues that may get burned or damaged due to fire or other corrosive agents. Burn injuries may result in loss of sensation, impaired mobility and affect your cosmetic appearance. Plastic surgery for burns is an advanced technique that can repair the damaged burned areas to restore the lost aesthetics and activity of your body.
The plastic surgeon may recommend different surgical options depending upon the severity of the burn and condition of the patient. Various burn surgery options are:
- Skin grafts: This surgical procedure is the most commonly used for burn patients. It involves transplantation of the patient's skin from healthy areas (called donor site) to the burned area. A specially designed instrument called 'Dermatone' is employed for preparing skin grafts. Based on the layers of the skin that are removed, skin grafts are categorised as:
- Split-thickness grafts: Includes a few outer layers of the skin and takes less than 3 weeks to recovery after transplantation
- Full-thickness grafts: Includes entire dermis layer of the skin and take 5-6 weeks to recover after transplantation
- Tissue expansion: This is a medical procedure that enhances the growth of skin to cover the burn area. A specially designed instrument called a balloon expander is inserted near the damaged skin to facilitate the skin to grow and extend with time. The resulting extra skin is castoff or shed to repair the damaged or burned skin. The major advantages of this procedure are repaired skin will have same colour and texture as that of the original skin with little scarring. The whole procedure may take 4 months for complete healing of the wound.
- Microsurgery: In this procedure a microscope is used to stitch tiny damaged blood vessels and nerves to re-join lost body parts such as fingers, toes, ears, and even lips. This procedure is also employed for relieving facial paralysis or breast reconstruction.
- Free Flap procedure: This involves transplantation of muscle, skin, or bone along with the original blood supply, from a donor site to the burn area. The healing of the wound may take 6-8 weeks or even more.
Usually donor skin is removed from covered areas such as the buttocks or inner thigh. The removed graft is placed over the burn area, fixed with a few stitches and then dressed with a sterile dressing. Likewise the donor site is also dressed with a sterile dressing to prevent infection.
Based on the type of burn surgery your plastic surgeon gives specific instructions. Some of the general instructions are:
- Avoid over exhaustion of the body
- Obtain adequate rest
- Avoid wearing tight clothing over the wound areas
- Take prescribed medications as ordered
- Report signs of infection such as redness, increased pain, swelling or drainage from the incision to your surgeon immediately
Risks & complications
The common risks and complication after burn surgery include:
- Infection at the surgical site
- Skin rashes
- Abnormal skin sensations