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Treatment of superficial burns requiring hospital admission

Mayer Tenenhaus, MD, FACS
Hans-Oliver Rennekampff, MD
Section Editor
Marc G Jeschke, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Collins, MD, PhD, FACS


Superficial injuries to the skin, most commonly thermal injuries, can often be managed in an outpatient setting. When large areas of skin are affected or specialized anatomic sites are involved, management in an inpatient setting, often at a burn center, is recommended.

Superficial burns are managed by maintaining a moist wound healing environment and protecting the wound from shear, tearing, and further injury while promoting reepithelialization. Dressings are chosen to help to manage wound drainage and are changed according to the manufacturer's recommendations (eg, daily, or every second or third day) [1].

Superficial skin loss from other types of injury, such as chemical burns, or skin loss from toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) is managed using similar principles. However, there are some differences. As an example, superficial skin loss from TEN is characterized by wounds that are not often challenged by problems of exudate management but may suffer from complicated superinfection. In addition to wound care, the underlying pathophysiologic cause needs to be specifically addressed. Chemical burns may require additional therapies to neutralize deleterious local or systemic effects. (See "Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis: Management, prognosis, and long-term sequelae" and "Topical chemical burns".)

The management of patients with superficial skin loss requiring hospitalization (predominantly thermal burns), the management of potential complications, and follow-up care are reviewed here.

Treatment of minor burns (not requiring hospital admission) and treatment of deep partial-thickness and full-thickness burns are reviewed separately. (See "Treatment of minor thermal burns".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Nov 20, 2017.
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