Normal, undamaged skin is made up of connective tissues in the dermis. These tissues form a three-dimensional mesh of collagen fibers that are aligned parallel to the skin’s surface. The skin applies pressure against its underlying layers, and under normal circumstances, this pressure ensures that injured skin is replaced in its original state without scarring.
When burns destroy the skin, the normal pressure from the papillary dermis no longer exists. Without this pressure, hypertrophic scars will form irregularly, causing possible deformities. Pressure garments prevent and control the formation of hypertrophic scars by applying counterpressure to the wounded area. By reducing the effects of hypertrophic scarring, pressure garments reduce scarring and deformities.
It is important that burn patients begin wearing pressure garments while the scar is active and immature. Scar tissue is highly responsive in the early stages, so an early application of pressure garments is imperative. Pressure garments should be worn at least 23 hours a day and should be removed for bathing and cleaning of the garments only. Most patients will need to wear pressure garments for 12 to 18 months.
Continuously wearing pressure garments prevents the thickening, buckling, and nodular formations seen in hypertrophic scars. A soft, pliable elastic scar develops instead, which allows for normal joint movement. The external pressure applied by the garments decreases the inflammatory response and the amount of blood in the scar, which reduces itching and prevents collagen from synthesizing. Additionally, pressure garments provide protection against injury.
Pressure Garment Care
Pressure garments play a vital role in the proper healing of wounds and reduction of scarring, but for the garments to perform properly, they need to be in good condition. If you have any questions or concerns about your pressure garments, contact your therapist as soon as possible. Below are a few tips for keeping your garments clean and in good condition.