Burn reconstruction is often a large component of medical missions throughout the world. Burn trauma is among the most common types of trauma in many third world nations. Roughly 90 percent of burn deformities occur in low to middle income regions due to lack of access to adequate medical care that is crucial in burn trauma. Burn injuries require not only immediate care, but also long term care that is often lacking.
In many areas of the world, lack of electricity necessitates the need for oil and wood to light fires. This is used for cooking and lighting homes at night. The use of kerosene oil is probably the most common. It is cheap and abundant even in the most remote parts of the world. Children living in severe poverty are often more prone to burn injuries because of lack of education and ease of access to these caustic materials.
Burn trauma that is inadequately treated in both the short and long term timeframes can result in severe deformities. Burns to the face can disfigure patients and lead to social abuse in their own communities. Functional impairments can also result when the burns involve specific structures like lips, when a patient is not able to close or open their mouths. In the scalp, burns can lead to unsightly hair loss. Eyelid burns are devastating because patients are unable to close their eyes resulting in debilitating dry eyes.
Burns to the extremities can result in joint contractures, inhibiting the joints from functioning. This can occur in small joints like the fingers and even large joints like elbows and knees. If patients are unable to use their hands or unable to walk due to burn contractures, it can lead to economic devastation for entire families.
Burn reconstructive surgery attempts to restore both cosmetic and functional deficits. Surgically releasing scars that are causing contractures can help restore the ability to engage in regular daily activities such as eating and in some cases even seeing normally. In other situations, we can help patients to walk by releasing scars in their legs and ankles. When the hand is involved we can restore grip as well as the ability to use tools and even write.
Charitable organizations like Destination: Hope offers free surgery in these remote parts of the world to help those who are in need of this service. Burn injuries are devastating for whole communities, not just individuals. The restorative surgery that we offer can improve lives from both a social and economic standpoint.