Despite advances in medical care, burn injuries remain one of the most fatal and costly injuries any person can suffer. Both thermal and chemical burns can destroy skin tissue, leaving a person more vulnerable to infection, which elevates the likelihood of fatality. In fact, some burn studies found that infection was the most common cause of mortality.
However, these studies are more concerned with the fatality rate according to Total Body Surface Area (TBSA) affected by burns. What many studies don’t discuss is the severity of a burn according to depth and how that affects long-term quality of life. As a result, a lot of people don’t realize that there are more than three degrees of burn injury.
Today, we’re discussing fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-degree burns.
What Are 4th, 5th & 6th Degree Burns?
Burns are classified according to the depth of injury they incur. So, for example, a first-degree burn only affects the first layer of skin (epidermis), while a second-degree burn affects part of the dermis, which sits underneath the epidermis. A third-degree (or full-thickness) burn destroys the epidermis and the dermis all the way through to the subcutaneous skin layer. Severe second-degree burns and all third-degree burns require hospitalization and could be fatal.
However, burns can go even further than this:
- 4th-degree burns cause damage all the way to the subcutaneous fat layer.
- 5th-degree burns cause damage all the way through to the muscle.
- 6th-degree burns cause damage all the way through to the bone.
Nerve endings are destroyed after a 3rd-degree burn, so these deeper burns don’t cause more pain. However, they are far more likely to result in potentially fatal complications. For instance, a burn through to the muscle can destroy blood vessels, leading to excessive bleeding. These burns also require amputation, forever robbing a person of their ability to fully function.
What Makes Higher-Degree Burns More Fatal?
In most fatal burn injury cases, it’s not the burn itself but the complications fromthe burn can cause loss of life. The large-scale destruction of body tissue makes the survivor far more likely to experience sepsis or multi-organ failure due to infection. The heat required for a 4th-degree burn or higher is also likely to have caused lung damage due to inhalation, which is the second-most common cause of mortality in burn injuries.
That’s why higher-degree burns have a much higher fatality rate. If an accident generates enough heat to cause a higher-degree burn, it’s likely that the survivor will also be dealing with a high percentage TBSA or respiratory damage. High-degree burns co-occur with the other factors that burn injury studies often focus on.
That’s why our Pennsylvania burn injury lawyers fight on behalf of injured workers and consumers. When unsafe conditions create the possibility for severe burn injuries, it’s every company’s responsibility to mitigate risk and keep employees and consumers as safe as possible. When they don’t, we speak up for bthe injured to force companies to make things right.
To learn about your legal options after a burn injury, call (888) 498-3023 today.