Most burn victims usually want the same things: for the burns to heal or go away, and to have freedom from pain and scars. In essence, they want to have their old life and their old self back to normal again. Reconstructive burn surgery can be the beginning of the recovery process.
For a relatively minor burn injury with minimal scars, recovery is inevitable. However, for more serious and severe burns, restoration may be painfully slow. It can really turn a person's world upside down. Whether the burn involves face, hands, or distorts the body, the immediate effect may be devastating to the newly burned person. In patients with greater than 30% total-body surface area burns, full recovery can take at least two years.
The stages of a burn reconstructive surgery
The reconstructive burn surgery restoration process is comprised of three elements: recovery, reconstruction, and rehabilitation, with each process being distinct and unique.
Recovery means to return to original form. Typically, we recover from physical injuries, but this term may also indicate emotional recovery. Many burn victims also struggle with recovery from posttraumatic stress syndrome.
Reconstruction means to rebuild, but not necessarily to the exact previous form, as reconstruction has its inherent limitations. Reconstruction can return both form and function, and provides hope to the healing burn patient. With burn wounds, some tissues heal, some tissue is lost or replaced, and some tissue is irreparably damaged and endured.
Restoration literally means to make whole again, to become a whole person again, not just physically but spiritually and emotionally.
The timing of reconstructive burn surgery, therefore, varies from patient to patient, depending upon need and stage of healing. In reality, reconstructive burn surgery has already begun during treatment and surgery for the initial burn injury. All burn surgeons operate with the foresight of an attainable goal in the final post-burn form.
Early reconstructive burn surgery implies surgery while the scars are still very immature, which is generally believed to be within the first six months following the burn injury. In the majority of cases, early reconstruction assists the process of recovery.
Late reconstructive burn surgery occurs more than six months post-burn, or when the scars are believed to be mature. Late reconstruction may lead to fewer surgeries and more successful reconstructive efforts. With time, some difficulties may have already been acceptably rehabilitated, making surgical correction unnecessary.
Sequential reconstructive burn surgery is a staged reconstruction process marked by extensive pre-surgical planning between the patient and the surgeon. The majority of reconstructive burn surgery needs can be dealt with in this manner using some immediate reconstruction, some early surgery, and some late surgery. Crucial elements for success are a workable, adaptable plan, and good communication between patient and plastic surgeon.
The reconstructive burn surgery does not end until the patient has recovered. The reconstructive burn surgery process affects more than the physical form, also affecting the psychological side of a person. Many believe that the mental and emotional damage is greater than the physical scarring in most severely injured burn victims. Recovery from the intangible effects of the burn is the key to restoration following burn injury.