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Compression garments

Pressure therapy, also known as compression (to press together) therapy, for scar management is an important component of a recovering burn patient’s rehabilitation program. Compression can be achieved with garments, splints, orthoses and casts. In this section, the compression discussed is provided through special tight-fitting garments or dressings made of elasticized fabrics. Elastic bandages or garments are used to provide constant and equal pressure to provide compression over the healed burn. This compression minimizes development of scarring and deformity. Compression garments help the burn heal with the least amount of scarring by pressing and flattening the scars. The tightness of a compression garment also helps stop the itching associated with a healing burn and protect fragile skin. Benefits associated with compression include its ability to:

  • Protect fragile skin
  • Promote better circulation of damaged tissues
  • Decrease extremity pain through vascular support
  • Decrease itching
  • Help keep moisturizers on, thereby lubricating the damaged skin
  • Reduce bulky, thick, hard scars
  • Increase skin length by putting pressure on maturing contracture bands that force the skin to lengthen

Different kinds of compression garments are available and different companies make these special clothes. Some of the garments are “off the shelf” (ready made) and others are custom-fitted. A custom-fitted garment is made for only one person. To custom fit a garment, many measurements are taken of the person who will wear the outfit.

Commonly-used methods of providing compression include:

  • Elastic wrap bandages (Ace Wrap) are the most universally used pressure. The bandage is applied in a figure eight manner.
  • Tubular pressure bandages (Tubigrip) are tube sock bandages used when wounds are mostly healed.
  • Interim care garments are pre-made garments used for pressure until custom-made garments are available.
  • Custom-made garments are made of special fabric from precise body measurements.

Injured skin has a tendency to develop offensive odors when healing, especially when it is covered with support garments. Daily bathing and thoroughly washing open areas and body wrinkles, drying skin meticulously and applying lotion every day minimizes this problem and promotes faster wound healing. Wearing deodorant is appropriate if it does not cause a skin rash.

Just for fun

The first medical reference to the use of pressure for burn treatment occurred in 1678, referring to the work of Ambroise Pare in the sixteenth century. The first known uses of pressure for burn treatment in children occurred in:

  • 1860 (elastic bandages)
  • 1881 (adhesive plaster for pressure)
  • 1902 (traction to treat scars)
  • Jobst was the first company to commercially manufacture compression garments.