Understanding Fourth-Degree Burns
What Are Fourth-Degree Burns?
Fourth-degree burns are the most severe burns and include extensive damage of the skin, muscles, and bone. These burns are most often fatal, but recent medical advances have started to make it possible to save those suffering from fourth-degree burns. These burns require immediate medical attention to ensure survival.
What are the Symptoms of a Fourth-Degree Burn?
A fourth-degree burn will go beyond the three outer layers of skin and begin to affect muscles, ligaments, and even bone. Some medical professionals will further classify these burns into fourth, fifth, and sixth-degree injuries, indicating the exact extent of the damages.
Charring can occur in third-degree burns, but it is mostly one of the indicative factors of a fourth-degree burn. When charring occurs, high heat burns oxygen and hydrogen from the skin, leaving only a black substance after long exposure. In the most severe burn cases, a fourth-degree burn can begin to char the bone. A fourth degree can cause the body to go into shock, causing low blood pressure and rapid breathing.
The body cannot recover from damage to muscle the same way it recovers skin. When a burn reaches into muscles and ligaments, the wound most likely will not recover properly, often leading to a loss of function.
Fourth-Degree Burn Pain
Much like third-degree burns, a fourth-degree burn has damaged the nerve endings. As such, there will not be much pain. However, some treatments can be painful to patients, such as excision, which removes dead and damaged skin from the burn injury.
What are the Common Causes of a Fourth-Degree Burn?
The same causes that lead to third-degree burns are most often responsible for fourth-degree burns as well; the higher temperatures and extended exposure are responsible for the greater damages.
In the home, fourth-degree burns are most likely to come from house fires, cooking accidents, and appliance disrepair. In the workforce, emergency personnel, food service workers, medical workers, manufacturers, scientists, and those who work with cable, electric or construction services have a much higher occupational risk of burns, such as chemical burns, than other professions.
What is the Treatment for Fourth-Degree Burns?
Fast-acting treatment is necessary for a victim of a fourth-degree burn to survive. If such a burn occurs, the patient should receive medical attention as soon as possible.
Because of the large amounts of liquid a burn victim goes through as his or her body works to stabilize the wound, the patient is at great risk for dehydration. Upon receiving a fourth-degree burn victim, the medical staff will focus on stabilization and rehydration. They also work to ensure that the patient has proper levels of breathing and circulation.
During this stage, the patient will also receive antibiotics to help resist any potential infections. A fourth-degree burn is already a dangerous medical condition and an infection can create more complications. Medical staff will administer the antibiotic topically, orally, or intravenously, depending on the location of the burn and the patient’s condition.
The staff will also likely administer pain medication to prevent swelling and to prepare for further treatment. Excision is the first major treatment, which involves surgical removal of any dead and damaged skin. Taking the skin out of the burn injury helps prevent infection and allows the wound an open pathway to heal properly.
Patients with fourth-degree burns will most likely require amputation due to loss of function. Since most areas affected by these severe burns have almost no chance of recovery, the medical staff will amputate any irrecoverable burn areas to control pain and disease.
Once these processes are complete, medical staff will move forward with skin grafting to replace any skin destroyed by the burn. This allows for movement of healthy skin over the damaged burn site. For patients with wide-reaching burns and not enough healthy skin for grafting, labs can grow skin for later use.
Even with these procedures, it is still a strong possibility that a patient suffering from a fourth-degree burn will die during the treatment.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of a fourth-degree burn due to another’s negligent actions, the Phoenix burn injury lawyers at Begam Marks & Traulsen, P.A. are here to help. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.
Additional Burn Information and Resources
For additional information regarding the varying degrees of burns, please visit the following pages: first-degree burns, second-degree burns, third-degree burns, fifth-degree burns, and sixth-degree burns. For information on other burn types, please visit our practice area page.