Burn injuries range in types and severities, from superficial minor burns to deep tissue critical burns. Some burns can elicit immune and inflammatory responses, metabolic changes, and distributive shock that can be challenging to manage and even lead to multiple organ failure. Knowing when to see or refer to a burn specialist is important to ensure proper healing protocol and minimize any complications or long-term effects.

Dr. Angeles at the Angeles Wound Care Institute based out of Bend Plastic Surgery is an expert in wound care, with over 25 years of treating burn injuries. Upon referral, our team provides patients with a personalized care plan tailored to their exact needs and situation. We offer advanced treatments specialized in burn healing, infection prevention, and individualized care to achieve the best functional and cosmetic results.

Understanding Burn Injuries

Different levels of burns are classified based on their depth and severity.

  • 1st Degree Burn (Superficial thickness): These burns are only on the outermost layer of skin, the epidermis. 1st degree burns are considered superficial burns, generally causing redness, minor pain, and potentially swelling. A sunburn is an example of a first degree burn.
  • 2nd Degree Burn (Partial or Intermediate thickness): 2nd degree burns reach the second layer of skin, the dermis, right below the epidermis. These burns often are characterized by redness, swelling, severe pain, and blisters. Second degree burns are often caused by brief contact with an open flame or hot liquid.
  • 3rd Degree Burn (Full thickness): These burns are when the burn has extended through every layer of skin, potentially going deeper into tissues, muscles and bone. This is the most severe type of burn, characterized by whitening of skin and numbness caused by severe nerve damage. Third degree burns may be caused by extended contact with open flame or hot objects, chemicals, electricity or radiation.


Burn Injury

Credit: Springer Nature Limited 2020

When Should You Seek a Burn Specialist?

Burn injuries are unique because they elicit varying and complex responses that can last years after the injury. An initial inflammatory response that promotes healing in most injuries can be lengthy and excessive in severe burns. In some cases, this extended inflammation leads to a hypermetabolic response, which is associated with infections, organ damage, and even death.

So how do you know when to refer a patient or look into a burn specialist for yourself? Here’s what we recommend depending on the type of burn:

  • Minor/Superficial Burns: If you are concerned about the location of a burn on the body and/or if the burn is showing signs of swelling, extended inflammation, pain, or infection, it would be a good idea to consult a specialist. Burns on especially sensitive areas of the body may require medical assistance, such as on the face, hands, feet or genitals.
  • 2nd Degree Burns: If a second degree burn is larger than three inches or located in a sensitive area, we recommend consulting a burn specialist. Any second degree burn caused by chemical or electrical injuries should be taken to professional care. Check for a foul odor, leaking fluid, skin discoloration beyond the burn, and/or inability to use the burned body part.
  • 3rd Degree Burn: All third degree burns should be taken to a burn specialist. Third degree burns generally require immediate attention. Due to nerve damage, third degree burns generally don’t cause much pain, but, because of the potential for tissue damage, specialized care should be sought out immediately.
  • Complications or Non-Healing Burns: Signs of infection in a burn may appear as increased pain, redness and swelling. With any sign of infection, a burn patient should seek professional care. With any burn that is not showing signs of healing progress, the patient should seek a professional to prevent any further complications.

While more extreme burn cases are rare, seeing a specialist will ensure that a burn patient gets the best resources and treatment possible to avoid any dangerous or undesirable physiological side effects. And at Bend Plastic Surgery, we take the psychological effects of a traumatic burn injury into account when creating a personalized treatment plan for our patients.

Contact or Refer Your Patients to Bend Plastic Surgery

Dr. Angeles and his specialized team at Bend Plastic Surgery are professionally trained and will work with you and your entire healthcare team to provide the best burn care. We treat patients from throughout the state of Oregon, including John Day, Burns, Klamath Falls, Newport, Lakeview, La Grande, and Pendleton.

If you or a loved one has suffered from a burn, contact our team to help you find the care you need.