TYPES AND TREATMENTS FOR HAND BURNS
Burns to the hands are fairly common, but, depending upon the type and severity, they can cause major disability to a person. Burns can be caused by heat, such as fire, hot metal, steam, and scalding liquid. They can also be caused by friction, chemicals, radiation or electricity.
The severity of the burn determines the level of first-aid and treatment needed.
- First degree burns are the mildest form, affecting only the surface layer of the skin. Though first degree burns can be very painful, they do not cause long-term damage and can be treated with first aid at home. Symptoms of a first-degree burn include pain, redness and swelling. An example is a sun burn.
- Second degree burns are also called "partial-thickness burns" and affect both layers of skin, the epidermis and dermis. Symptoms include blistering, as well as pain, redness and swelling.
- Third degree burns (full-thickness burns) go deep into the dermis. These burns often feel numb and appear white, black or charred. Immediate medical attention is essential for this type of burn.
Treatment of severe burns, such as third degree burns, often requires surgery. Acute burn surgery takes place immediately, while reconstructive burn surgery restores as much function and normal appearance to the area as possible at a later time. Common treatments for severe burns include:
- Debridement: the removal of all damaged skin from the injured site.
- Skin Grafts: transplanting healthy skin to the injured area. Skin grafts can either be full-thickness, using the entire thickness of the skin for transplant, or split-thickness, which uses a very thin layer of skin.
- Tissue Expansion: in some cases, skin from non-injured areas of the body can be expanded to cover the wound. This technique allows for the preservation of many of the skin's characteristics, such as sensation, texture, color and hair growth in the transplanted skin.
Early diagnosis is often difficult, due to the similarity of symptoms with wrist sprain. X-rays often appear normal during the initial stage of the disease. As the condition progresses, signs begin to appear on X-rays and MRI.
During the initial stage of the disease, treatment options include immobilization and anti- inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and pain. If symptoms persist, or if the disease has progressed to the later stages, several surgical options are available. Which option is used depends upon the stage of the disease as well as the patient's activity-level and goals. Available surgical options include:
- Bone grafting: to restore blood supply to the area.
- Joint Leveling: used when the bones in the forearm are uneven, causing pressure on the lunate.
- Proximal Row Carpectomy (removal of deteriorated bones in the wrist): to relieve pain and swelling while maintaining partial mobility.
- Bone Fusion: used in severe cases after wrist bones have deteriorated. This procedure offers relief from pain and swelling, though range of motion in the wrist will be limited.
Houston hand surgeon Dr. Fiore is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and fellowship trained in hand and microsurgery. For more information about hand burns and treatment, or to schedule a consultation, call Fiore Hand & Wrist Surgical Associates at (281) 970-8002.