Written on May 25, 2022
Dear Burn Community,
Welcome to “Ask the Experts,” a burn community advice column. We know a strong support system is one of the most important factors in a successful recovery from a burn injury, so for this installment of our column, we focused on questions from loved ones looking for ways to support the survivor in their lives. While these submissions may be specific to a particular individual’s situation, all three questions are very common themes that many survivors and loved ones face on their journey.
Whether you’re a survivor, loved one, or burn support professional, we want to hear your questions and concerns—and nothing is off limits! Odds are, someone else is facing a similar challenge, and submitting your question can help them too. We want to tackle topics that matter to the burn community – and if we can’t answer your question or we know someone else who may be better able to help, we’ll tap other experts to share their knowledge. We want to know what's on your mind, from legal options to makeup techniques and everything in between.
Have a question? Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Ask the Experts."
Lise, Samoana, Felicia
My daughter has second and third degree burns to both legs from the knees down. I read somewhere that she can get circulation problems later in life, especially when pregnant. Can you share insight on this and how to prevent these issues down the road?
This is a great question! First, let me preface my answer: everyone heals, scars, and reacts differently.
What we do know is that burns are more of a chronic issue than just an acute one. Burns are a trauma. We know survivors are at increased risk for developing multiple ailments over time, from diabetes and infections to cardiovascular complications. We know the physiologic changes after severe burns include inflammatory and hormonal changes and those changes are prolonged. We also know that trauma and hospitalization also increase the risk for circulation problems.
We do not know how reversible any of these risks or complications are after burns, for example, through things like exercise, compression garments, diet, etc. Thus, your daughter may be at risk for circulation problems regardless of whether she is pregnant. If she chooses to become pregnant, her risk may be higher, but I cannot quantify those risks. Especially since I do not know the full extent of the injuries your daughter survived, it is difficult to be very specific in my answer. For example, if your daughter required skin grafts circumferentially (all around) her lower legs due to full-thickness burns or required excision (removal) of her burns down to muscle, it may add further risk for swelling or circulation problems.
None of these risks should stop your daughter from living her best life. Many women with burn scars have successful pregnancies and give birth to healthy babies. If your daughter chooses or hopes to carry a baby, she should discuss her specific risks with her burn surgeon and OB.
Dr. Felicia Williams is a Burn Surgeon at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery and is the Associate Division Chief for the Burn Division. She completed her General Surgery Residency at ECU and her training in Galveston under Dr. Herndon, dedicating her life to burns. She has many publications, with a current research focus on health disparities in burn care.