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Skin Injuries

The most common injury to the skin is burns. An estimated 130,000 individuals are hospitalized annually in the United States due to burn injuries. Many burns are small and will heal completely on their own if kept free from infection. Many different rating scales for burn injury exist, however, the most common are: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns.

First (1st) degree burns are superficial burns and can be quite painful but are generally not considered life threatening. An example would be a sunburn. First degree burns involve only the epidermis.

Second (2nd) degree burns or partial thickness burns are more severe and will involve the epidermis and the dermis. The healing of 2nd degree burns is dependent on how deeply the dermis is burned. If the epidermal cells that are found surrounding the hair follicles and skin glands are not damaged, then they will regenerate and grow a new epithelial (skin) covering. If the dermis is burned deeply enough to destroy its internal structures, then new epithelium will not regenerate and grafting may be required.

Third (3rd) degree burns or full thickness burns destroy both the epidermis and dermis and may affect deeper tissues such as fat and muscle and connect tissues. Most 3rd degree burns will need grafting to replace the lost dermis and epidermis.

Other injuries to the skin which require grafting can be caused by trauma, abrasions, frostbite, infection, ulcers, and auto-immune diseases.