How are burn injuries classified?

Most of us are familiar with the concept of first degree, second degree and third degree burns. There is also a fourth degree, the most serious of all burn injuries and often fatal. The level of severity is ranked from least to worst:

  • First degree burn: This occurs when only the upper level of skin, the epidermis, is damaged. Sunburn is a common example, and these types of injuries generally heal quite quickly with no scarring.
  • Second degree burn: These burns destroy the epidermis and go deeper into the second layer of skin, the dermis. They often result in scarring and/or changes in skin tone. Serious cases may require skin grafts.
  • Third degree burn: In this case, the burn destroys the epidermis and the dermis as well as tissue underneath the two layers of skin, including the nerve endings. Again, the skin tone may vary widely on and around the area of the injury, and significant scarring may result. These burns almost always require skin grafts and can even be fatal.
  • Fourth degree burn: These burns go all the way down to the bone. They are often fatal, and if not, the burned limbs must be amputated.

Posted in: Burn Injury