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Burn wounds can be caused by a number of different factors including flame, chemical, radiation, scalds, electrical and extreme cold. Depending upon the amount of tissue damage, burns can be classified as superficial (e.g. mild sunburn with some epidermal damage), partial thickness (e.g. loss of epidermis caused by scalding), and full thickness (complete loss of skin tissue).

The way in which burn wounds heal depends upon the amount of tissue damage caused. Superficial burns heal by the process of re-epithelialisation, with new epithelium migrating in from the wound edges. In a partial thickness wound, the epidermal layer and the upper part of the dermis may be destroyed and healing occurs from deeper within the dermis. Re-epithelialisation can again occur from the wound edges, but also from epithelial islands and remnants within the wound (e.g. hair follicles). Full thickness burns exhibit total skin loss, and healing occurs firstly by granulation tissue formation, and then subsequent re-epithelialisation. The use of skin grafts or skin flaps may be appropriate in these cases.

Of paramount importance in managing burn wounds is the prevention of infection, as this can lead to severe complications for the patient. 3M™ Tegaderm™ Foam Dressing can be used to absorb fluid from 1st and 2nd degree burns and provide protection from external contamination. Prevention of trauma to the newly regenerating tissue is also important, and a wound contact dressing such as 3M™ Tegaderm™ Contact Dressing can left in place whilst some secondary absorbent dressings are changed, thereby helping to reduce pain and trauma to the wound bed.

Information provided with support from the Wound Healing Research Unit, Cardiff.

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