Occupational Therapy and Third Degree Burns

January 24, 2012

When the skin is burned, it may heal by forming scars depending on the severity of injury. The more severe the injury (third degree burns), the more likely to develop scars and contractures.The aim of occupational therapy is to prevent or minimize the scars and deformities that may result from the burn injury. (See preventing and dealing with scars)

Occupational therapy is a skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence. OT may be started while the patient is still in the hospital and may be continued after discharge.

Occupational therapists evaluate the patient's need for a splint, positioning (sitting, comfort in bed) and exercises. They institute diversional activities, teach activities of daily living, provide a home program of splinting and exercises before discharge and home visits (if the patient needs them) after discharge.

The patient plays a major role in the recovery process. It may be difficult in the beginning with the pain and stress associated with the exercises, but with time it will be easier. The more time spent following the program, the faster the healing process and the less scaring and deformities.

Occupational therapy may be hard in the beginning because of the pain that is associated with the burn and surgeries, the sensitivity of the skin and the fear that the patient may experience. With children, doing occupational therapy may be more difficult. Parents play an important role in encouraging the child, helping him/her with their therapy and praising them.

Some patients will be transferred to a rehabilitation center after discharge from the burn center to continue their rehabilitation. The duration and type of therapy will depend on the condition of the patient and the severity of the burn.

Patients may be discharged home with instruction to continue Occupational therapy at home; compression garments may be given and used with exercising.

Make sure to attend all outpatient follow up appointments with the burn clinic. Your physicians and therapists will monitor your progress and make adjustments as needed.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

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