Secondary Burn Reconstruction

Secondary Burn Reconstruction

Burn scars may impact a person's confidence and quality of life long after the burn has healed. Burn scars may also reduce a person's mobility by constricting the skin between their joints and muscles.

Even if a severe burn receives timely emergency treatment, some amount of scarring is likely to result. For this reason, Temple offers secondary burn reconstruction for restoring mobility and reducing visible scars after burns have healed.

Because burn scars heal gradually, many physicians prefer to wait up to a year or more before performing secondary burn reconstruction. When the timing is ideal, however, Temple's fellowship-trained reconstructive surgeons offer a range of procedures for burns of any size and severity.

Scar Release Surgery

For larger, deeper burns, our surgeons generally perform scar release surgery to reduce skin constriction and improve mobility. The procedure involves cutting away scar tissue to release skin tightness between the joints and muscles. Because removing scar tissue effectively reopens the burn, a skin graft or flap surgery is then necessary.

  • Skin graft: During a skin graft, a Temple surgeon covers the burn using healthy skin taken from a discreet location on the patient's body, usually the buttocks or inner thigh. Once the graft is in place, it begins to form new blood vessels. Though burn scars will be less visible after a skin graft, new scars will often take their place.
  • Flap surgery: If the wound is too severe to receive a graft, Temple offers flap surgery. This involves transplanting a flap of the patient's skin and connective tissue onto the burn. Using advanced microsurgery, Temple's surgeons manually attach each blood vessel of the donor tissue to the veins and arteries of the recipient site. Flap surgery generally produces less new scarring than skin grafting.

If not enough healthy skin is available for a flap or skin graft, our surgeons may be able to place tissue expanders under the skin. As these small balloons slowly inflate, they stretch the skin until enough donor tissue is available.


For smaller burns, particularly those on the face and hands, a procedure called Z-plasty can camouflage scar tissue and improve flexibility. During Z-plasty, a Temple surgeon makes a Z-shaped incision in the scar, creating two triangle-shaped flaps. The surgeon then rotates the flaps and sews them into place. This releases skin contracture and conceals scar tissue by forcing it to conform to the natural creases of the skin.

Skin Resurfacing Procedures

In some cases, burn scars may be reduced with outpatient skin resurfacing procedures. Dermabrasion targets burn scars by surgically scraping the top layer of skin. Laser resurfacing is a similar treatment performed with a medical laser.

From cosmetic treatments to complex surgical repair, Temple's highly experienced reconstructive surgeons are well versed in all forms of burn reconstruction.

To schedule an appointment with a Temple plastic and reconstructive surgeon, click here or call 1-800-TEMPLE-MED (1-800-836-7536).