A burn is the destruction of the partial or full thickness of the skin and/or deeper tissue (fat, muscles, nerves, vessels, bones, etc) from thermal, chemical or electrical causes. Depending on the cause of the injury, burns are classified as thermal (high or low temperature), chemical or electrical.
In the acute phase, the burns may be treated conservatively or surgically. This depends on the depth of the burn, the extent of surface area involved, the age of the patient and their health in general. If the burns are extensive, the general condition of the patient is also affected and supportive measures must be taken that would allow the surgeon to perform the surgery. Younger patients are treated more conservatively, as they heal better than older patients. Burns on the hands are usually treated surgically right away to avoid shrinking and dysfunction. Electrical burns must be treated surgically within the first 24 hours to achieve optimal restoration, and avoid infections and the destruction of elements that had not been initially affected by the electric current.
Subsequent complications from burns fall right within the medical specialty of plastic surgery. Multiple problems arise from burns: scars, shrinkage, unstable scars, deformities and deficits in the face, scalp and body; loss of significant senses and functional entities (ears, nose, lips, eyelashes, eyebrows, etc), and their corresponding disabilities; and limb joint dysfunction, neck shrinkage. The plastic surgeon might need to employ a whole array of reconstructive surgical methods to restore burn victims. Many of these methods have been outlined in various pages of this website.