The skin is the largest human organ, accounting for about 16% of total body weight and covering around 2m2 of surface area.1 In addition to being the largest and, of course, the most visible organ; it is also one of the most important to survival. The skin has several life-sustaining functions including: serving as a protective barrier from the outside world, promoting sensation, providing temperature control, and preventing fluid loss.
Unfortunately, as the most external layer of our body, the skin is subjected to a wide variety of medical and traumatic conditions. One of the most devastating conditions results from burns. Even though initiatives dedicated to the prevention of burn injuries have significantly decreased their incidence, burns still affect 1 to 2 million people in the United States each year.2-5 As a prehospital care provider, you are likely to be the first person to provide care to these patients and can play a key role in decreasing the morbidity and mortality that results from burn injuries.
The Medic-CE curriculum divides burn emergencies into two separate courses. The current course (Burn Emergencies I) will focus on basic principles of burn emergencies. The second course in the series (Burns Emergencies II) will focus on specific cases of burn emergencies.
The following course will begin with a review of the anatomy and physiology of the skin. Next, the classification of burns will be discussed. This will be followed by a presentation of the pathophysiology of burns and their associated complications. After that, a general assessment and management plan for burn patients will be described. The course will conclude with a presentation on burn prevention efforts.
Anatomy and Physiology of the Skin
To understand burns, you must first understand the anatomy and physiology of the skin. One reason for this is that the classification of burns is based on the anatomical layers of the skin. In addition, many of the...