Severe burn injuries can have a long-term impact on the quality of victims’ lives, and many burn-injured individuals experience significant limitations.
According to a long-term study published in the Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters that examined the health and quality of life of those suffering a burn injury, “[b]urn patients seem to experience significant limitations related to pain/discomfort, usual activities, self-care, and anxiety/depression, as well as in physical functioning, role performance, body pain, social functioning, and general health,” compared to people in the general population.
Issues related to burn injuries
Some of the persistent health problems related to burn injuries include:
- Burn survivors often continue to have problems with scarring after their burn injury heals. Hypertrophic scars (raised skin around the original burn) are the most common complications of a burn injury. They often limit the victim’s ability to function and adversely affect their body image. Research has indicated that more moderate burns that heal in under 10 days usually do not result in scarring. However, most severe burns that heal in 14 to 21 days are prone to scarring, whereas those that take more than 21 days to heal and require skin grafting are at high risk for scarring. Scarring typically develops within the first few months after the burn, peaks at about six months, and matures (reaches maximum healing) in 12-18 months.
- Contractures, severe complications of a burn injury, occur when a burn scar matures, thickens, tightens, and constricts movement, mainly when a burn occurs over a joint. Contractures place patients at risk for additional medical problems and functional deficits and interfere with skin and graft healing. In addition, contractures of the lower extremities impede transfers, seating, and ambulation, and those of the upper extremities often affect the activities of daily living, such as grooming, dressing, eating, and bathing, as well as tasks that require fine motor skills.
- A 2021 study assessing the relationship between fatigue and burn injury found burn patients experience a significantly higher risk of developing fatigue. Researchers noted that it is “important to investigate the relationship between fatigue and daily activities, depression, return to work and quality of life; to pinpoint the impact fatigue has on everyday life.”
- People suffering from severe burns are prone to hypothermia because of the loss of the surface of the skin, which helps to regulate body temperature, which is essential in supporting normal body functions. Hypothermia can lead to increased wound infections, prolonged hospital stays, and post-operative discomfort. In addition, burn patients undergoing the removal of large burn wounds are at risk for increased blood loss, bleeding disorders, and death.
- According to the Burns and Fire Disasters study mentioned earlier, most burn patients experience itching, particularly during the first years after injury. Even though the incidence of itching seems to decrease with time, 44 percent of burn survivors studied reported mild to moderate symptoms of itchy skin from four to 10 years after injury. In addition, the researchers found itching could persist for more than 15 years post-injury in many burn patients.
- Pain control is a significant challenge for burn patients, and effective pain management is connected to enhanced wound healing, sleep, quality of life, and recovery. Because burn victims have varying pain thresholds, coping abilities, and physiological responses to injury, patients may experience different pain levels despite having similar injuries. Without aggressive pain control, burn patients are more likely to suffer from acute pain, long-term anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Sleep difficulties. A critical burn injury can change hormone levels and other chemicals in the body that affect sleep. According to the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC), more than half of the people who have sustained severe burn injuries will experience sleep problems, including difficulty falling and staying asleep, poor sleep quality, waking from sleep too early, and nightmares. Sleep problems are widespread immediately after a burn injury and during the healing and recovery stages. Many burn victims experience sleep disturbances long after they leave the hospital and are considered healed.
- Body issues. Burn injuries often lead to body image concerns – how happy, comfortable, and confident a person is with how they look. According to MSKTC, about one-third of all burn survivors experience distress regarding the changed appearance of their body and how it feels and works. Although most burn victims become accustomed to the change in their appearance over time, some find reconciling how they look after a severe burn injury difficult.
- Psychological problems. Some people never fully recover from the emotional effects of a severe burn; the psychological and emotional damagefrom this type of injury can be debilitating. Researchers state “greater levels of acute pain are associated with negative long-term psychological effects such as acute stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation, and post-traumatic stress disorder for as long as 2 years after the initial burn injury.”
Seeking compensation for your Sevierville burn injury?
If another person’s negligence caused your burn injury, you could be entitled to recover compensation in a personal injury claim for these and other damages:
- Current and future medical expenses, including physical and emotional therapy
- Current and future lost income and benefits
- Decreased earning capacity
- Permanent disfigurement, scarring, disability, and impairment
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Placing a value on all your damages can be challenging; however, a skilled personal injury attorney can negotiate a settlement that will fairly compensate you for your damages. The attorneys at Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, represent injured people – including burn victims – in Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Seymour, and throughout Tennessee. Please call us at 865-428-8780 or fill out our contact form to schedule your initial consultation today.
Attorney Bryce W. McKenzie received his JD from University of Tennessee College of Law, and has been a clerk for the Court of Criminal Appeals. He is admitted in Tennessee, Federal Court, and the US Court of Appeals. Read more about Bryce W. McKenzie.