After a burn injury, the goals of reconstructive burn surgery are to both restore function and to restore a more normal appearance. Burn injuries can impair function through scarring and loss of tissue, leading to restrictions in motion and chronic pain. The disfigurement related to severe burn injuries can cause serious social dysfunction. Reconstructive surgery aims to correct all of these difficulties.
After acute burns have healed, reconstructive burn surgery revolves around modifying the resulting scar tissue. Scar tissue that is limiting the motion of the hands, neck, or eyelids could be treated through the surgical release of scar contractures. Plastic surgery techniques can be used to improve the appearance of scars, and can also be used to re-build damaged structures such as noses, lips, and eyelids.
Timeline for Treatment
Injuries that are causing severe functional impairment, such as the inability to blink, should be treated immediately. Scar contractures that are impeding movement should be surgically released fairly early during the healing process. However, for the best final results, scars that are simply cosmetically displeasing should be allowed to heal for around a year before plastic surgery procedures are performed.
Most surgical treatments for contracted or large unsightly scars involve cutting into the center of the scar or excising the scar entirely. This leaves an open wound that needs to be healed. Skin grafts are commonly taken from other parts of the body to close the wound. The skin grafts could be attached to the new wound in such a way as to minimize the appearance of scarring along the edges of the new wound.
Severe Facial Injuries
Severe facial burns can significantly affect functioning of the face. Victims may suffer from dry eyes, corneal scarring, and difficulties in breathing, eating, and speaking. In severe cases, a full facial transplant may be the only way to reconstruct a functional and cosmetically acceptable face.
What to Expect
For smaller skin grafts, reconstructive burn surgery can be performed as an outpatient procedure (the patient goes home the same day). However, for larger skin grafts or more complicated skin rearrangement procedures, the patient usually stays one or more days in a hospital after the procedure. During the recovery period, the patient has to strike a balance between resting the treated area sufficiently to allow it to heal while simultaneously moving it enough to prevent new contractures from forming. The recovery procedure and length of time required for healing depend entirely on each patient’s situation. Many patients require multiple surgeries over time to achieve the desired result.
In addition to surgical treatment of scarring, non-operative therapy may be helpful. Scar massage, special compression garments, and physical therapy may improve function and appearance. For burned hands, rehabilitative therapy is essential for regaining full function. Contact Real Cosmetic Plastic Surgery to schedule your consultation with Mr. Stephen Salerno. He can work with you to determine the safest treatment for your needs.