About Burn Injury

A Glossary of Terms

Click on a letter to access terms or click the "on" button to browse entire glossary.


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Acetic acid - A vinegar solution sometimes used under a dressing that helps to kill germs.

Airplane trough - A positioning device for the arms that attaches to a hospital bed. Usually arm wedges are held in place on a airplane trough. Arm wedges on an airplane trough are used to reduce swelling, to regain normal range of motion, and to prevent healing skin from shrinking while in bed. (It is named airplane trough because it positions the arms away from the body like the wings on a plane.)

Airplane or auxillary - A splint for the shoulders or axilla is used to prevent the skin from shrinking as it heals and to restore range of motion by stretching the skin under the arms.

Anesthesia - Medicine that puts the patient into a kind of sleep, used so it won't hurt during surgery.

Anesthesiologist - A doctor who gives anesthesia.

Arm wedge - A foam positioning device that is higher at one end and lower at the other. An arm wedge is used to reduce
swelling by keeping the arm elevated above the level of your heart.

Artery - One of the heavy-duty tubes or blood vessels that sends blood away from the heart.

Atarax- A medicine that relives itch and makes you sleepy.

Axilla- The area under your arms, the armpit area.

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Bacitracin - Antibiotic ointment with an oily consistency. Used for superficial burns.

Bandages - A strip of cloth or other material used to cover a wound or protect an injured part.

Blood pressure - The pressure of the blood against the blood vessel walls.

Blood vessel - Any of the tubes in the body through which the blood flows. Arteries and veins are blood vessels. Your body
is full of miles of tubes that carry fast moving blood. These tubes are called blood vessels.

Blowby oxygen mask - A mask used to give a patient oxygen. It fits under the chin and it blows the oxygen towards the patient's nose and mouth.

Bedside tables- A special hospital table that moves around easily because it has wheels. Sometimes bedside tables are used to
secure positioning devices such as pillows or arm wedges.

Benedryl - A medicine that helps relieve itch. It can also make you sleepy or sometimes overactive.

Bucks traction - Bucks is a name of a foam sleeve used to hold an arms in traction. Bucks traction is used to keep arm up to
reduce swelling, to regain normal range of motion and to prevent healing axilla (under the arm) skin from shrinking.

Burn- When skin is damaged by heat or fire. Burns can be small or large. A first degree burn damages only the top layer of skin. It heals by itself. A second degree burn might heal by itself but may need special care from a doctor to heal better and faster. A third degree burn does not heal by itself. This burn goes through all the skin layers. A third degree burn must be repaired with a skin graft operation before it will heal.

Burn center or Burn unit - The part of a hospital where people who have been burned get medical treatment. A burn patient
receives care from many people who specialize in burn treatment including doctors, nurses and therapists.

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Capillary - One of the tubes that connect the arteries and veins. Capillaries are the smallest of the blood vessels. A
capillary is smaller than the size of a piece of hair.

Cardiac monitor- The cardiac monitor looks like a TV with wavy lines and numbers that appear in different colors. A cardiac
monitor records heart rate and blood pressure.

Carotene - Pigment in the skin that gives yellowish coloring.

Cast - A splint made of plaster or fiberglass material. A cast for a burn is worn as a splint for the hand, elbow or leg
to prevent the skin from shrinking as it heals. It also and restores range of motion by stretching the skin. A
cast also provides protection to fragile healing skin.

Clavicle strap - Soft cotton strap that is worn in a figure eight pattern around each shoulder to prevent the skin from shrinking
as it heals and restores motion by stretching the skin.

Clinitron bed - A bed filled with tiny sand-like beads that are gently moving all of the time.

Compression garments - Compression garments are special clothing made of elastic fabric. These garments are made to fit tight. They help the burn heal by pressing on the scars. The tightness also helps to stop the itching that happens while a burn is healing.

Continuous passive motion machine (CPM)- A CPM is used to restore range of motion by constantly moving the joint by a machine. The CPM also stretches the skin as it moves the joints through range of motion. CPM's might be used on a hand, leg or an arm.

Contracture - Loss of normal movement as a result of healing.

Cotton batting- A type of dressing that is used to pad and protect an area.

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Dermatome - A tool with a sharp razor blade that sheers the donor skin off the body.

Dermis - The second or inner layer of the skin. It is filled with blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles, and sweat glands.

Donor skin - Skin that is taken from an area of the body which has healthy unburned skin. This skin replaces the burned skin.

Doxepin - A medicine that relieves pain.

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Elastic wraps - A type of bandage. The more common name is ace wrap.

Endotracheal tube (ET Tube) - A flexible plastic tube that goes through the nose or mouth and into the lungs to help you breathe. A ventilator is connected to this tube.

Epidermis- The thin, outer layer of the skin. It contains dead skin cells on the surface.

Exercise - Activity that trains or improves the body or the mind. Movements to stretch or strengthen parts of the body.

Exudry - A type of bandage. It is an absorbent, padded dressing that comes in shapes to fit different areas of the

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Feeding tube - A small tube that is put into the nose that goes down into the stomach. Liquid food goes into the stomach through the feeding tube.

Finger extension trough splints - Finger splints used to support a finger joint so that it heals without contracting. A finger trough helps to prevent deformity.

Flexnet - A type of bandage. It is an elastic open-weave dressing.

Foot cushion - A cushion that is placed on the hospital bed to keep feet in a walking position.

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Heart beat - One complete pumping motion of the heart. When the heart squeezes or pumps to move the blood through the body it makes a thumping sound called a heart beat.

Heart rate - The number of times the heart beats in one minute. Normal heart rate for a child is in the range of 80 to 120 beats per minute.

Hospital bed - A hospital bed has buttons on it to put the head up and down and the feet up and down.

Hypertrophic scar - An injury that heals showing a red, hard, raised bump under the skin.

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Immature graft or donor - A new graft or donor.The site is red; it may be painful and itch. It is not done healing.

Inflammation - Redness, pain, heat and swelling in the body, due to injury.

Interdigital - The area between the fingers.

Interdigital inserts - Placing inserts between the fingers and thumb web space to prevent the skin from shrinking as it heals and to restore range of motion by stretching the skin. Inserts are usually made from cotton or silicone.

Iowa City mouth splint - A mouth splint used to keep the mouth from shrinking.

Itch- A tickling or stinging feeling in the skin.

Intravenous IV's- IV's are fluids that we put into the body.

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Kerlix - A type of bandage. It is a white gauze dressing.

Kinair Bed - A bed with many cushions that are filled with air. We can make this bed softer or harder by changing the amount of air in the cushions.

Kling - A type of bandage. It is an open weave dressing.

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MacFarlane mouth splint - A mouth splint custom made by a dentist. It is used to keep the mouth from shrinking.

Mature graft or donor site - A graft or donor site that is done healing. A mature site has faded to a more normal color and it usually does not itch anymore. Mature graft or donor skin does not look exactly like unburned skin - and it never will.

Medicine - A drug or other substance used to prevent or cure disease or to relieve pain.

Melanin - Pigment in the skin that gives brown and black tones. Melanin makes a kind of screen that keeps out some
the burning sunlight.

Meshed graft - Making tiny slits or cuts into the donor skin. A meshed graft may be stretched to allow it to cover a larger area than it came from.

Methodone - A medicine that relieves pain.

Morphine - A medicine that relieves pain and makes you sleepy.

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Nasal cannula - A type of breathing mask for oxygen. A small plastic tube blows small amounts of oxygen directly into the nose.

Nasogastric tube (NG Tube) - The NG tube goes into the nose or mouth and down to the stomach. This tube pulls the juices out of the stomach so a person doesn't get sick and throw up.

Nurse - A person who is trained to take care of sick people and to teach them how to stay healthy.

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Operating rooms (OR) - An OR is also called a surgery room. It is a very clean (sterile) room where skin graft surgeries take place.

Occupational therapist - A person who is trained in rehabilitation. Occupational therapists are knowledgeable about using activity, exercise, splints and positioning to help a person with burns get well.

Operating room nurse - A nurse who helps with surgery.

Oximeter - The oximeter looks like a band aide. It is usually placed on a toe or a finger. An oximeter registers a number on a machine. This number tells us if there is enough oxygen in the body.

Oxygen mask - A mask that fits over the nose and the mouth and gives oxygen.

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Percocet- Medication that relieves pain and can make you sleepy.

Perspiration - Moisture that is given off through the pores of the skin; sweat.

Physical therapist- A person who is trained in rehabilitation. Physical therapists are knowledgeable about using activity,
exercise, splints and positioning that will help a person with burns get well.

Pigmentation- Any coloring matter in tissues.

Positioning- The way in which a person or thing is placed or arranged. The goals of positioning for a person with a burn injury are to 1) reduce swelling 2) and to make it as easy as possible to maintain and regain normal motions after a burn.

Pulse- The rhythmic beat of the arteries caused by the beating of the heart. When our heart beats, blood is pumped out into the arteries. The arteries are stretched and bulge out with each heart beat. This can be felt in places where arteries are close to the skin. We call this a pulse.

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Resident surgeon - A doctor who is training to become a surgeon.

Resting hand splint - A hand splint is used to support the hand and wrist joints and to help them heal without contracting so that a deformity does not develop.

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Sandals (for burns) - A splint worn to support and protect burned feet while healing.

Scar - A mark left on the skin after a wound has healed. It looks like puffy red skin. The scar can be very small or very big. A scar can be so big that it makes normal movement difficult.

Sensation - The power or ability to see, hear, smell, taste or touch.

Sheet graft - Donor skin that is removed from an unburned area of the body. The sheet donor is not meshed - holes are NOT put
into a sheet graft.

Silver Sulfadiazine - A medicine that is a white antibiotic cream. The cream is either spread directly on the burn or put on a dressing that covers a burn.

Skin - The outer covering of the body. The skin protects the organs inside the body and is the sense organ for touch, temperature and pain.

Skin Graft - An operation where a doctor attaches donor skin to a place on the body that has been burned.

Soft Kling - A type of bandage. It is a small soft, stretchy, wrap often used to cover burns on fingers.

Splints - Splints are made of many materials. Splints are used to hold parts of the body in the best position after a burn in
order to:

Stethoscope- A instrument used by doctors and nurses to listen to heartbeats and other sounds in the body.

Sulfamylon - A medicine that is a white antibiotic cream. The cream is either spread directly on the burn or put on a dressing that covers a burn. Sulfamylon is generally used only on third degree,full thickness burns.

Surgeon - A doctor who performs surgeries.

Surgical staples - Staples that are used to secure the edges of a graft to healthy skin. Staples are used to hold a graft in place.

Surgical sutures - Stitches made from with a needle and silk or nylon thread. Sutures are used to hold a graft in place.

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Tall walker - A type of walker that has a bar overhead to hold. A tall walker is used for when you have burned your hands or arms.

Therabite - A exercise splint used to stretch the mouth.

Therapy - Therapy might include exercise, splinting, positioning, using compression garments, transparent face masks or learning about how to best help the body heal after a burn. Working on therapy is a part of getting well after a burn injury.

Tilt table- A special table that moves a person from a lying down position to a standing position. A tilt table is used to help a person get use to standing again after being in bed for a very long period of time.

Traction - A pulling or drawing. Traction is commonly used for positioning after a burn injury.

Transparent face mask (TFO) - A see-through mask that is worn after a face burn. A face mask is a splint that helps grafted skin on the face heal so that it is soft and smooth with the least amount of scarring.

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Unna - Zinc oxide medicine in a fabric open weave wrap that dries to form a soft cast. It can be removed by soaking in water.

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Veins- Veins are tubes inside the body that bring the blood back to the heart. They are bigger than capillaries.

Ventilator - A machine that helps a person breathe. The ventilator is connected to the endotracheal tube (ET Tube) - the tube that goes into the lungs. Just like blowing air into a balloon, the ventilator blows air into the lungs.

Versed - A medicine that makes you sleepy and forget any unpleasant experience.

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Xeroform - A yellow gauze dressing that is put on cleaned second degree burns.

Why burn-help.com
burn-help.com is a website with a mission to educate with respect to the significance of burn injuries. This site is brought to you by the advocates of the Burn Injury Law Group, a community of plaintiff's trial lawyers across the United States united by a common interest in serving those with burns and a common commitment to fully understanding the anatomic, medical and psychological aspects of burn injuries.

©2000 Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr. of the Nolan Law Group

Call 1-800-992-9447
or in Illinois at 1-888-630-9340


The information on this page does not constitute legal advice. The law is constantly changing, and no warranty of the accuracy of information on this site or any site to which we link.