Deep Partial Thickness Burn

A deep partial thickness burn is at times referred to as a second-degree burn. This type of burn will normally affect the two uppermost layers of the skin, known as the hypodermis and the epidermis.

Partial thickness burns may continue to evolve with the passage of time. If the evolution continues, the burn normally ends up being a full thickness burn, or what is known as a third-degree burn. Its evolution may continue even after appropriate treatment has been administered by a physician.

It's important to note that second-degree burns are serious, and have a high risk of developing a complication or getting infected. As mentioned above, any burns that extend beyond the epidermis are known as second-degree burns. The layer below the epidermis, which is called the dermis, is divided into two main portions—the upper layer is known as the papillary region, and the lower layer is the reticular region.

The papillary is an area that is mainly made up of connective tissues whose sole purpose is to strengthen the existing connection between the dermis and the epidermis. If a burn only extends to this particular region, medics will refer to it as a superficial burn.

The reticular region is the area below the papillary region and comprises of:

  • Blood vessels
  • Connective tissues
  • Cutaneous sensory receptors
  • Sebaceous glands
  • Sweat glands

Damage to this particular layer is what is now known as a second-degree burn or deep partial thickness burn. In many cases, this type of burn will cause scarring in the affected region.

Symptoms associated with a Deep Partial Thickness burn

When it comes to second-degree burns, the affected region will be wet, white and waxen or red, and will not lead to the formation of blisters. It is common for blanching to take place. With time, the color may start to come back, but there are instances when this does not happen. The amount of pain that will be experienced will depend on the kind of damage that has occurred to the nerves.

The signs and symptoms include:

  • Clear blisters
  • Moist, painful skin
  • Red skin that eventually turns white whenever pressure is applied to this region

Who is at risk?

Small children have a higher risk of getting these burns. The same also applies to individuals who may be working in high-risk jobs, for instance:

  • Those that work with chemicals, radioactive materials, and combustibles
  • Jobs where heat, sparks, and flames are involved
  • Professionals who use electrical equipment in their work

Etiology of second degree burns

Second-degree burns may be caused by many varying external factors. Second-degree burns come in many forms:

  • Respiratory: Airway damage that comes about when you inhale toxic fumes, smoke, extremely hot air or steam.
  • Thermal: Damage caused by hot liquids, steam, hot objects or fire.
  • Friction: Occurs when there is friction between hard surfaces and your skin surface, e.g. floors, carpets, and roads.
  • Electrical: It occurs when you come into contact with an electrical source and in some cases with lightning.
  • Chemical: Damage that occurs when you come into direct contact with basic or acidic substances.
  • Radiation: This is damage that is caused by prolonged exposure to radiation therapy, UV radiation, tanning booths or X-ray machines.

Possible partial thickness burn complications

1. Infections

One of the primary roles of your skin is to protect the body against external factors that could cause an infection. However, this barrier will normally be broken when you suffer a second-degree burn. When you have a severe burn, a hard, avascular eschar begins to form, and this provides an ideal environment for the growth and development of microbes. Additionally, the eschar that has been formed also makes it very difficult for antibiotics and antibodies to get to the wound.

2. Circumferential burns

A circumferential burn is a burn whose full thickness affects the circumference of your torso or full digit. These kinds of burns are known to be problematic as the pliable skin is normally replaced by the tough eschar.

As a result, circulation to the affected region is cut off and the injured person eventually ends up developing compartment syndrome. For it to be treated, a surgical incision has to be made to cut through the touch eschar and access the subcutaneous tissues.

3. Tetanus

Burn sites have traditionally been susceptible to tetanus. Any patient that has not gone for immunization in the last five years is advised to take a booster shot.

4. Wound progression

Decreased blood flow and inflammation in the affected region will normally cause the second degree burns to start progressing into third-degree burns.

5. Hypothermic shock and hypovolemic shock

Apart from acting like a physical barrier against infections, the skin also helps in regulating body heat and in reducing the amounts of fluid lost via evaporation. If a large portion of your skin gets burned, your chances of getting hypovolemia start to increase substantially. This reduced flow of blood has the potential to send a patient into shock.

Prevention of partial thickness burns

It is important to observe safety measures both at the workplace and at home. This is the only viable way to prevent a person from being burnt. Some of the actions that can assist in preventing burn-related injuries include:

  • Ensuring that you have the right protective clothing when working with fire, flames, and chemicals.
  • All open flames should never be left unattended
  • Small children should not be left at home without a guardian
  • Make sure that your children are taught about the dangers of handling chemicals, electricity, hot water and fire.
  • Do not handle chemicals, fire or perform any kind of electrical work when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • All burns should be treated as soon as possible

Treatment options for second degree burns

If you have not broken any blisters, make sure that you remove all your clothing and jewelry in the affected region. Take some cold water and run it over the area for at least 10 minutes. Be careful when doing so to ensure that no blisters are open. If a blister does get open, do not run any cold water over that region and do not attempt to remove any clothing that may be stuck on your skin. Visit your nearest healthcare facility for immediate assistance.

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Last Reviewed:
June 18, 2018
Last Updated:
June 24, 2018