1. Health

Severe Hand Burn

Swelling Around a Hand or Foot can Make a Burned Limb Useless


Updated March 04, 2011

Second degree burn on hand
(c) Janell Petroff

A swollen burn can put pressure on nerve cells and restrict blood flow in parts of the body that aren't even involved in the burned area. When burns go all the way around an arm or a leg, it can result in what's known as compartment syndrome.

In the worst case scenario, compartment syndrome can lead to dying tissue. Unfortunately, that is a process that perpetuates itself, because the dying tissue gives off toxins that poison the areas around it, increasing the overall damage. The process can go on long enough to kill the victim.

I cringe when I see a burn like this one. The swelling in the hand and the severity of the burn make me nervous about the prospects for a good outcome. In this case, the victim did fine and treatment was successful.

When emergency healthcare providers determine the severity of a burn, they look for several factors. One trigger to call a burn severe is if it reaches all the way around an arm or a leg. Another is if the burn involves the hands or feet. We worry that swelling could lead to an amputation.

If you have a picture of your own burns or injuries, submit your injury pictures here.

Any opinions expressed here are for educational purposes only and are not intended for diagnosis.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. First Aid

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.