Revisiting Escharotomy in Patients With Burns in Extremities

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Abstract

Escharotomy incisions must be made in the inelastic skin eschar that is typical of circumferential third-degree burns. Later, the necrotic tissue must be debrided and substituted with a skin graft. Many reports on this topic have revealed that concepts and techniques vary widely. This study aims to present a critical review of the literature about escharotomy in burns and to highlight a different strategy to perform escharotomy in patients with burned extremities. We conducted a critical review in Pubmed/MEDLINE using the keywords “escharotomy” and “burns.” In the present study, we included 22 articles published from 1955 to 2015 (60 years) that contain the aforementioned keywords. With respect to the extremities, most of the publications recommend that medial and lateral longitudinal incisions be performed and that care must be taken to avoid deep structures, particularly nerves. Moreover, the publications mention that escharotomy might result in thick, hypertrophic, retracting, and painful scars. We advocate that incisions performed only on the lateral and medial borders of the extremities are usually unnecessary, and that they contribute to the creation of misconceptions about burns. In addition, these incisions can somehow trigger complications that can be avoided by using the concept of escharotomy in multiple directions, as highlighted in this review.

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