By Steven A. Kahn, MD
When treating severe burns, surgeons generally consider eschar removal to be the major factor and the top challenge in both initiating and planning for the optimal course of treatment for each patient. Before grafting, all devitalized tissue must be removed, leaving a wound bed of only healthy tissue. Some burn wounds are clearly full-thickness on initial examination, and some are clearly superficial, with relatively straightforward decision making. However, some wounds have an indeterminate depth and are more challenging. Deep partial-thickness, indeterminate-, and heterogenous-depth wounds require more complex decision making and/or a protracted interval to allow the wound to declare. Eschar removal is sometimes necessary to allow surgeons to assess the wound bed and confirm the depth and severity of certain burns. This, in turn, provides the insights a surgeon needs to determine the best course of treatment, including whether a patient must be treated with an autograft to cover a wound area.