Early Tangential Excision and Immediate Mesh Autografting of Deep Dermal Hand Burns

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Thermal injuries to the hand constitute not only one of the most common burns, but one of the most difficult for the burn surgeon to treat. Early wound closure is mandatory if maximum functional return is to be attained and scarring minimized. Over the last three and one-half years, 60 patients with deep dermal dorsal hand and finger burns were treated by tangential excision and immediate mesh autografting. All patients were admitted to the hospital within 24 hours of injury and excision was performed between the third to the tenth post burn day. Operative technique consisted of sequential eschar excision using the Humby knife or Goulian-Week dermatome until viable dermis was visible. Mesh autograft, ratio 1 to 1½ without expansion, was applied. There was 100% graft take in all but four hands. Hand function with full range of motion returned by the tenth postoperative day. Complications were minor. Patient follow-up ranged from six months to three and one-half years. No patient has required subsequent surgery for scar revision or contracture release. Range of motion in all patients has been excellent and all patients have continued to maintain normal hand function. The cosmetic appearance has been good except for the early “mesh” appearance of the graft which has become less apparent with time. In summary, early tangential excision and immediate mesh autografting of deep dermal dorsal hand burns has fulfilled the following burn principles—‘preservation of tissue, prevention of wound infection, maintenance of function and early wound closure.

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