Severe Burn Scar


Severe burn scars typically result from second and third-degree burns that damage the skin’s deeper layers. Clinically, factors such as the burn’s size and depth, infection, delayed treatment, and individual healing properties can lead to severe scarring. Non-clinical factors include age, poor nutrition, smoking, and pre-existing conditions that impede healing, like diabetes or vascular disease. Severe burn scars often have both functional and aesthetic implications, impacting mobility and causing psychological distress. Therefore, the management of such scars requires a holistic approach, encompassing physical, surgical, and psychological treatments.


Severe Burn Scars

Burns are skin injuries caused by heat, radiation, electricity, chemicals, or friction. The severity of burns is classified into first degree (superficial), second degree (partial thickness), and third degree (full thickness). Severe burn scars are typically associated with second and third-degree burns where there is substantial damage to the skin’s deeper layers and, possibly, underlying tissues.

Clinical Causal Factors

Severe burn scars occur when the skin is unable to heal properly after a burn. Here are some key clinical factors involved:

  1. Extent of the injury: The severity and size of the burn significantly impact scar formation. The larger and deeper the burn, the more severe the scarring.
  2. Infection: If a burn wound becomes infected, it can delay healing and increase the chance of a severe scar.
  3. Delayed treatment: Prompt and proper medical treatment of burns can reduce the severity of scarring. Delays can exacerbate the situation.
  4. Individual healing properties: The body’s healing process is unique to each individual. Some people may form severe scars even from less extensive burns.

Non-Clinical Causal Factors

Non-clinical factors can also influence severe burn scar formation:

  1. Age: Children and elderly individuals tend to heal slower than young adults, which may increase the risk of severe scarring.
  2. Nutrition: Poor nutrition can impair wound healing and lead to more significant scar formation. Protein, vitamin C, and zinc are particularly important for skin repair.
  3. Smoking: Smoking impairs the healing process and can lead to more severe scars.
  4. Pre-existing conditions: Certain conditions, like diabetes or vascular disease, can slow down the healing process and potentially increase scar severity.

Severe burn scars often have functional and aesthetic implications. They can limit mobility, particularly if they occur over joints, and can lead to psychological distress due to altered appearance. Therefore, managing these scars involves a multidisciplinary approach, including physical, surgical, and psychological treatments.



  1. Change in skin color: Scars may appear lighter or darker than the surrounding skin.
  2. Texture variations: The skin may feel thicker, tougher, or shinier at the site of the scar.
  3. Pain or discomfort: Scars may be sensitive, itchy, or cause pain, especially during the healing process.
  4. Restricted mobility: If the scar is over a joint or large area, it can limit movement.
  5. Abnormal sensations: Some people experience numbness or tingling due to nerve damage in the scarred area.


Diagnosis is typically based on a physical examination and the patient’s medical history. During the examination, a dermatologist or other medical professional will assess the following:

  1. Scar size, color, and texture: The scar’s physical characteristics help determine its severity.
  2. Location and impact on function: Scars over joints or on parts of the body that flex or move frequently can lead to contractures and impaired mobility.
  3. Patient symptoms: Itching, pain, numbness, or other sensations the patient reports are considered.

In some cases, a biopsy may be taken to analyze the scar tissue microscopically. If the scar is causing significant functional or aesthetic concerns, the patient may be referred to a specialist such as a plastic surgeon or physiotherapist. Psychological assessment and support may also be recommended as part of a holistic approach to managing severe burn scars.

Prognosis and Impact


The prognosis of severe burn scars largely depends on factors like the extent and depth of the original burn, the area of the body affected, the patient’s overall health, and the promptness and effectiveness of the treatment received.

Despite medical advancements, severe burn scars are often permanent. They can improve over time but rarely disappear entirely. With appropriate treatment, the appearance and functional impact of the scars can be significantly reduced.


  1. Physical Impact: Severe burn scars can result in functional issues like limited mobility or restricted range of motion, particularly when they occur over joints or large areas of skin. They can also cause discomfort, itchiness, or pain.
  2. Aesthetic Impact: Scars may significantly change a person’s appearance, leading to lowered self-esteem and issues with body image.
  3. Psychological Impact: The psychological effects of severe burn scars can be profound, leading to distress, anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychological support is often a crucial part of the treatment plan.
  4. Social Impact: The aesthetic and psychological effects can impact social interactions and relationships, potentially leading to isolation.
  5. Economic Impact: Depending on the location and severity of the scars, individuals might face difficulties in their work, impacting their economic stability. In addition, the costs of long-term scar management can be significant.

Despite these challenges, with a comprehensive treatment approach involving physical, surgical, and psychological interventions, people with severe burn scars can lead fulfilling, active lives. This requires a multidisciplinary healthcare team working together to address all aspects of the patient’s health and well-being.

Treatment Options

Non-Surgical Treatments

  1. Topical Treatments: Silicone sheets or gels are commonly used to flatten and soften scars and reduce associated symptoms like itching and discomfort.
  2. Compression Therapy: Compression garments help reduce scar thickness and itchiness. They’re typically custom-made and worn 23 hours a day.
  3. Physical Therapy: For scars that limit movement, especially around joints, physical therapy can help improve flexibility and function.
  4. Counseling or Psychotherapy: Given the significant psychological impact of severe burn scars, these therapies can help individuals cope with changes in body image and any associated depression or anxiety.

Surgical Treatments

  1. Scar Revision Surgery: Techniques such as Z-plasty can reorient scars to align with natural skin tension lines, making them less noticeable and improving mobility.
  2. Skin Grafts or Flaps: In more severe cases, a skin graft (transplanting skin from one area of the body to another) or a flap (moving skin along with the underlying fat, blood vessels, and muscle) may be necessary.
  3. Laser Therapy: Different types of lasers can be used to improve scar color, texture, and thickness.

Other Treatments

  1. Corticosteroid Injections: These can be used to soften and flatten hypertrophic or keloid scars.
  2. Cryotherapy: The controlled application of extreme cold can reduce the size of hypertrophic scars or keloids.
  3. Radiotherapy: In rare cases, especially resistant keloids might be treated with low-dose radiation.

Every individual’s scar and circumstances are unique, and treatment should be tailored to the specific needs and goals of the patient. It’s important to discuss the potential benefits, risks, and costs of each treatment option with a healthcare provider before making a decision.

Risks and Side Effects

Non-Surgical Treatments

  1. Topical Treatments: Side effects can include skin irritation, redness, and rash. An allergic reaction to the product is rare but possible.
  2. Compression Therapy: Compression garments can be uncomfortable, causing itching, sweating, and skin irritation.
  3. Physical Therapy: There’s a risk of overstretching and injury if exercises are not done correctly.
  4. Counseling or Psychotherapy: While generally considered safe, discussing traumatic experiences can sometimes be emotionally challenging.

Surgical Treatments

  1. Scar Revision Surgery: Risks include infection, bleeding, and the possibility of the scar returning or worsening. There’s also the general risk associated with anesthesia.
  2. Skin Grafts or Flaps: Risks include graft or flap failure, infection, and complications at the donor site. Aesthetic results may also not meet the patient’s expectations.
  3. Laser Therapy: Possible side effects include pain during treatment, skin redness, and swelling. There’s also a small risk of discoloration, infection, or scarring.

Other Treatments

  1. Corticosteroid Injections: Risks can include skin thinning, discoloration, and the formation of “dimples” in the skin.
  2. Cryotherapy: Side effects can include pain, blistering, discoloration, and, in rare cases, damage to underlying tissues.
  3. Radiotherapy: Side effects include redness, swelling, changes in skin color, and, in rare cases, an increased risk of skin cancer in the treated area.

All treatments should be discussed thoroughly with a healthcare provider to understand their potential benefits, risks, and costs. It’s also essential to remember that individual responses to treatments can vary widely, and what works well for one person may not work as well for another.

FAQ Section

A severe burn scar typically results from deep burns that damage multiple layers of the skin. It may cause a noticeable change in skin color and texture, and in some cases, can lead to functional limitations, like restricted mobility, particularly if located over a joint.

Several factors can contribute, including the depth and extent of the burn, presence of infection, delayed treatment, age, nutrition, smoking, and certain pre-existing conditions like diabetes.

Symptoms include changes in skin color and texture, discomfort, restricted mobility, and abnormal sensations such as numbness or tingling.

Diagnosis usually involves a physical examination and assessment of the patient’s medical history. The scar size, color, texture, location, and impact on function are all considered.

Severe burn scars often remain throughout life but can improve over time with proper treatment. Their impact can be significantly reduced through both functional and aesthetic improvements.

Severe burn scars can have physical impacts, such as pain or limited mobility, as well as aesthetic and psychological impacts. They can also affect social interactions and economic stability.

There are several options, ranging from non-surgical treatments like topical treatments, compression therapy, and physical therapy, to surgical treatments like scar revision surgery, skin grafts, and laser therapy. Other treatments can include corticosteroid injections, cryotherapy, and radiotherapy.

Each treatment carries its own risks and side effects, including skin irritation, discomfort, risk of infection, and potential complications related to surgical procedures. It’s essential to discuss these risks with a healthcare provider before starting any treatment.

Coverage varies depending on the insurance policy and the specific treatment. It’s recommended to check with your insurance provider for detailed information.

Numerous support groups, counseling services, and online communities are available for individuals living with severe burn scars. These resources can provide emotional support, practical advice, and shared experiences from others facing similar challenges.

INDICATION-Severe Burn Scar