The First 48

The first 48 hours after a burn injury has occurred are the most critical. The challenge for healthcare professionals is to get patients through the first stages of recovery by preventing fluid loss, and preventing and/or controlling infection. Infections are a serious threat to burn patients. In the first 48 hours patients will lose fluids from the vessels, sodium chloride and protein flow into the injured area causing blisters, swelling, low urine output, and low blood pressure. Doctors combat these effects by providing patients with fluids, electrolytes, antibiotics, pain medication, tetanus vaccination, and often inserting a catheter. Once the patient has been stabilized, doctors and nurses begin cleaning the wounds to prepare them to be covered.

Burn patients will continue to lose fluids until their wounds have been covered. Wounds may be covered using ointment and a dressing. However, for more severe wounds a skin graft may be needed. Skin grafts present complications and patients may not be strong enough for surgery, and for the most severely burned patients they may not have enough healthy skin to donate.

When a patient does not have enough healthy skin to donate, temporary coverings of cadaver skin may be used. However, as with all donor organs cadaver skin is in short supply. Additionally, the skin must be thoroughly examined to ensure that it is free of infectious agents such as HIV and hepatitis. Pigskin can be used as an alternative to cadaver skin.
In recent years burn treatment research has brought relief to burn patients in many different forms. Perhaps the most beneficial is artificial skin, which can be used in some cases. Artificial skin is a relatively new development for burn treatment and the results so far have been good. Doctors may use Integra Artificial Skin Dermal Regeneration Templates or Original BioBrain to cover wounds. These products are proving to be life saving for many burn victims.
Cultured skin is a result of years of research. For the past ten years, healthcare professionals have had the ability to grow a patient’s skin in a laboratory under special tissue culture conditions. Using a postage stamp-sized piece of the patient’s skin, lab technicians can grow enough skin in about 3 weeks to cover nearly the entire body.