Mimi Murphy's Medical Breakthroughs: Burn Mask

By: Mimi Murphy
By: Mimi Murphy

Most people have suffered a minor burn from cooking or hot water. That just hurts the top layer of skin. But third-degree burns cause damage all the way through the layers of the skin and leave a person with severe scars that make movement difficult. Now a new type of mask can help limit the scars from facial burns.

It was a day Charles Kraushaar cannot forget. An explosion from a gas leak left him with third-degree burns over 60 percent of his body.

"I really shouldn't have survived the extensive burn," he tells Ivanhoe.

Not only did the severe burns change his appearance, the facial burns were so debilitating Kraushaar could barely open his eyes or mouth.

"I couldn't take a bite out of a sandwich," he says.

To help with everyday functions, Kraushaar went through extensive therapy and was fitted with a new type of mask.

Michelle Swatski Ober, O.T.R.L., an occupational therapist at Johns Hopkins Baltimore Regional Burn Center in Baltimore, tells Ivanhoe, "It provides pressure to those areas that will therefore cause those scars to become more pliable to allow you to open your mouth and close your eyes."

For years, face masks were made by pouring a molding material on the patient's face while they remained still for 45 minutes. Now, therapists do it with a laser. The person sits in the chair and a scanner goes around them.

The result is a protective mask, a precise representation of the patient's facial contours. That's critical for healing and comfort because it has to be worn 23 hours a day for at least one year.

Now that Kraushaar completed his therapy with the mask, he can do things most people take for granted. He says, "To me a productive life is opening my eyes in the morning seeing the birds outside singing." He says that's something worth getting up for everyday.

This burn mask is currently only being used for patients with very severe burns on the face.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Sandy Reckert
Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
ASC Room 274
4940 Eastern Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21224
(410) 550-1855
sreckert@jhmi.edu


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