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Improving Burn Victims' Quality of Life: New Advances in Treatment

Recent Techniques of Plastic Surgery Alleviate Chronic Pain and Itching from Burn Injuries

This week is National Burn Awareness Week and, in observation, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) issued a press release summarizing the recent advances in treatment that can help burn victims regain a better quality of life following injury. The ASPS cites statistics showing that over 16,000 reconstructive procedures were performed in 2016, a 4% increase from the prior year. These included both acute care including burn debridement, amputations, and skin grafts, and longer-term care such as scar revisions and tissue expansions. C. Scott Hultman, MD, professor of plastic surgery at the University of North Carolina, noted, “Nearly 50 percent of burn patients experience chronic pain and itching as they go through their rehabilitation process, which often gets in the way of work, school and other day-to-day activities.”

Recent technologies and approaches have dramatically improved patient outcomes over the last 10 years, according to the ASPS release. These include laser resurfacing of burn scars, which can both decrease scar inflammation and improve skin elasticity. Fat grafting addresses the skin’s undersurface at the burn site, by injection of fat cells between the skin and nerve fibers, a technique that produces an 80% success rate, according to Dr. Hultman. Nerve decompression and the use of biologic materials to simplify reconstruction are among the additional advances that have recently become available.

Read the press release from the ASPS.

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