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Burn Rehabilitation Program

UC San Diego Health offers a comprehensive burn rehabilitation program for people who have sustained serious burns. A physical or occupational therapist, or both, will work with you through the complete recovery phase. The goal of rehabilitation is to facilitate your return to the highest possible functional level of independence. 

Therapy starts on the day of admission and continues throughout the hospital stay. The focus of therapy during the acute care stage is to prevent a loss of range of motion, initiate scar management, assist with edema reduction, and to educate you and your family about possible burn-related problems. Scar management will be addressed in the early stages by range of motion exercises, soft tissue massage, and the use of pressure wraps as the burns and grafts are healing.

Positioning devices may be necessary to immobilize or place an extremity in a more functional position following surgery for grafting. A custom thermoplastic splint may be created for individuals' specific needs to maintain joint range of motion or tendon integrity. All custom splints are fabricated occupational therapist at UC San Diego Health and are adjusted as needed during the recovery process. During the early stages of recovery, the physical therapist manages the lower body and the occupational therapist manages the upper body. The therapists often work together to mobilize you when you are ready to get up for the first time.

Active Participation in Therapy

As you become more active in the therapy sessions, the occupational therapist will begin preparing you to resume the daily living skills of bathing, dressing, hygiene and grooming. The physical therapist will assist you in regaining the endurance, strength and balance needed for activities such as getting into a chair, standing and walking. It is imperative that you and your family follow the rehabilitation programs provided by the therapists in order to obtain the highest level of recovery. Tissue that has been grafted has the potential to become very tight, and can severely restrict the range of motion needed for functional activities. Range of motion and stretching exercises must be done hourly in some cases to avoid skin tightness and joint contractures. Scar massage and range of motion exercises may continue for up to one year after sustaining a burn. It is best to do as many normal activities as possible to facilitate return of the strength and flexibility needed for day to day tasks.

Therapy in the Clinic and at Home

After discharge from the hospital, it is critical that you stick with the home exercise program provided by the rehabilitation therapists. You also may need to attend outpatient therapy sessions with the physical and/or occupational therapist. The goals in this setting may involve preparing you to return to work or school. Treatment can consist of continued scar management, splinting, strengthening, and practicing daily activities or work related tasks. Visits to the burn clinic on a regular basis will help to identify problems that may occur during the often difficult adjustment period after discharge from the hospital. You and burn team can make any necessary adjustments to the home program or outpatient therapy schedule.

Your full participation in the rehabilitation process is essential. Recovery from a severe burn can be a lifetime process, and by working together, you, your family and rehabilitation team can make the outcome a success.

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