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How Are Burn Injuries Evaluated?

Among the worst injuries possible in any accident are burn injuries because they can have absolutely devastating consequences for sufferers. If the burn is severe, treatment can require an exceptionally long hospital stay, numerous very painful surgeries and extremely long periods of physical therapy just to return to a reasonable level of function. In addition to the physical manifestations, burn injuries can also lead to serious emotional and psychological problems for both the victims and their families.

One question many people ask is how medical personnel determine the severity of burns. There are actually four basic categories, or “degrees” or burns, that have specific meanings and that guide the treatment for burn victims.

Four Categories of Burn Injuries

  • First Degree burns are those, like a mile sunburn, that only affect the outer layer of the skin and present as little more than reddened or blotchy skin. These types of burns are extremely mild and will usually heal on their own within a week or so. Those suffering from first degree burns can usually find relief with soothing medicated rubs, especially those containing aloe.
  • Second Degree burns are a little more serious because they permeate beyond the top layers of skin and damage the layers underneath. Often, second degree burns will manifest with blisters, either clear or filled with blood. Once they heal, these types of burns can sometimes leave behind scar tissue that must be alleviated with skin grafts.
  • Third Degree burns are extremely serious because they penetrate though all top layers of skin and even damage several subcutaneous skin layers, stopping just short of the muscle and bone. There is almost always scarring throughout the burn area, so skin grafts are usually required. Depending on the area affected, amputation is sometimes required for third degree burns.
  • Fourth Degree burns are by far the most severe because they are characterized by burning everything, including muscle and bone and often, even internal organs. They are the least likely to be treated with anything other than amputation of the burned area. Fourth degree burns are also those most likely to be fatal.

In addition to the degree of burn, burn injuries are also classified by their severity and based on how much of the body was affected by the burn, using a measurement called the Total Body Surface Area, or TBSA. These classifications, which help medical personnel decide on treatment.

Total Body Surface Area (TBSA) Classifications For Burn Injuries:

  • Minor burns are those covering less than 15 percent of total body surface area. The term “minor” is relative, however, and doesn’t take into account the level of pain or suffering the patient may be experiencing; the term simply refers to burns that can usually be treated on an outpatient basis, at an ER, urgent care facility or even a doctor’s office.
  • Moderate burns are those that cover 15-25 percent of the total body surface area, with the burns not affecting either the hands or the face. These types of burns can usually be treated on an inpatient basis by a local hospital.
  • Major Burns are those that either cover more than 20 percent of the body or that cover the hands or face of the burn victim. This classification is also used when a burn victim suffers serious burn damage to a joint, such as a shoulder or a knee. In almost all cases, major burns will require specialized treatment at a burn facility.

Texas Personal Injury Lawyers Handling Claims For Burn Injuries

Burn injuries can have many causes, including auto and truck accidents, workplace accidents, or even when dealing with defective consumer products, among many other possible causes. In any type of case involving this type of personal injury, it is helpful to understand the type of injury suffered by the victim, and the available treatment options for each. The purpose of providing this information is designed to help you understand how medical care professionals and others determine the course of treatment.