Types of Burns

When rating the severity of a burn injury, doctors look at a number of factors, including the age of the patient, the location of the burn and the size of the burn as a percentage of total skin area.

Doctors will frequently talk in terms of total body surface area (TBSA) of the burn when making a diagnosis and discussing treatment plans. The quickest way for doctors to estimate the TBSA of a burn uses the “Rule of Nines.” The Rule of Nines divides the human body into areas that equal nine percent of the total body surface area. Each arm, for example, contains about nine percent of the body’s total skin area. Doctors use this tool to estimate the extent of a burn and to make a diagnosis.

For example, a patient might have the diagnosis of a 35 percent TBSA chemical burn.

Early and accurate determination of the percentage of skin area covered by the burn is important for calculating correct amounts of fluid replacement. Fluid replacement receives more attention in burn units, as an effective method of preventing kidney failure.

Degrees of Burn

Doctors don’t talk about “degrees” of burn as much as they used to. New burn survivors and their families frequently ask questions about the degree of burn, however. Doctors will help patients and their families understand the burn diagnosis with reference to the different degrees of burn.

A first-degree burn is a relatively superficial or surface skin burn that will eventually heal on its own with no scarring. A moderate sunburn is a textbook example of a first-degree burn.

A second-degree burn is also called a partial thickness burn. Some doctors will differentiate between a superficial partial thickness burn and a deep partial thickness burn. A partial thickness burn causes blistering and damage to the top layers of skin. Scars can result. Common causes of second degree burns include exposure to open flame or exposure to scalding liquids.

A third-degree burn is also called a full thickness burn. A third-degree burn destroys all layers of skin and may also destroy tendons and muscles. Third-degree burns almost always require surgeries like skin grafting and intensive rehabilitation.

  • Wrongful Death
  • Scarring
  • Inhalation Injuries

An inhalation injury is a fourth type of burn injury. Inhalation injuries result from: direct inhalation of a hot air or flame source, which will damage the upper airways; inhalation of toxic chemicals, such as carbon monoxide, which can cause brain damage or even death; or injury from smoke inhalation. People suffering from inhalation injuries as a result of chemical or industrial accidents often frequently suffer from serious chemical burns.

Aiken & Scoptur, S.C., is a law firm focused exclusively on representing accident victims and their families in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. Our attorneys have over three decades of experience in helping clients pursue rightful compensation for burn injuries that are the result of someone else’s negligence or misconduct.

More questions? We encourage you to contact us for additional information or for a free initial consultation to discuss how an experienced burn injury lawyer at our firm can help. With offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Tucson, Arizona, Aiken & Scoptur, S.C., provides legal representation to burn injury victims and families nationwide.

Contact us for a free consultation.


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