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Topic Six: Burn Depth

Skin is the organ of the body that usually suffers the greatest damage from a burn injury. Depending on the extent of the injury, several layers may be affected. The severity of a burn is described according to its depth and extent.

Determining Depth

During the initial assessment, the depth of the burn needs to be determined, as this may often have an effect on the outcomes and treatment. For example, larger full-thickness burns will usually require surgery and skin grafting.

The traditional method of gauging burn severity has been classified by ‘Degree’. However, best practice (Wounds International, 2014) suggests that using depth of tissue damage describes burns more accurately. This is now commonplace with the healthcare environment.

The depths of burns are classified as follows:

  • Superficial or epidermal burns
  • Superficial dermal burns
  • Deep dermal burn
  • Full-thickness burn