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Regional Burns Service and Plastic Surgery

The Northern Ireland Regional Burns Service is made up of:

  • The Norman C. Hughes Regional Burns Unit
  • Contains 8 beds for adult burns who require in-patient management
  • This is situated on ward 2E on the main corridor of the Royal Victoria Hospital site
  • It also houses a dedicated Burns theatre, which has daily operating lists for managing both acute burns and reconstructive procedures.
  • It is located below the Regional Intensive Care Unit, which is where patients which large burns, or complicating other injuries may be required to stay.
  • The Norman C. Hughes Regional Burns Unit is also the location for the Burns Dressing Clinic, which runs daily, and is the point of referral for new burns that can be treated on an out-patient basis.
  • In addition, there are out-patient Burns clinics that run in the out-patient building on the Royal Hospital site on level 7B. These are mainly to accommodate patients whose burns have healed, but require ongoing care, reconstruction and scar contracture release.
  • A weekly multidisciplinary team meeting is held in the Norman C. Hughes Regional Burns Unit, and includes all the professionals responsible for burns patients.
  • Children with burns are seen, assessed and managed on Paul Ward in the Children’s Hospital, and medical staff care for patients on both sites.

Burn injuries are managed by a team of professionals, led by a Consultant Plastic Surgeon.

Because of the complex nature of burns and their physical and psychological impact on patients and their families, the service utilises the expertise of many different specialists.

All admissions are assessed by a burns nurse, burns surgeon, occupational therapist and physiotherapist. We also have a dietician, psychotherapy team, chaplaincy team, social worker and pharmacists as part of our team.

The doctors, nurses and therapists plan care for the individual child and family from the time of admission, through to discharge and then ongoing for as long as required. The Regional Burns Unit offers the latest in burn dressings, specialised wound care, and plastic and reconstructive surgical techniques.

Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery is the branch of surgery specialising in repairing and reconstructing missing or damaged tissue and skin. The main aim of plastic surgery is to restore the function of tissues and skin to as close to normal as possible. Improving the appearance of body parts is an important, but secondary, objective of plastic surgery.

Plastic surgery can be used to repair:

  • abnormalities caused by birth defects
  • areas damaged by the removal of cancerous tissue
  • extensive burns or other serious injuries, such as those sustained during motor vehicle accidents

Plastic surgery uses a wide range of techniques, depending on the condition being treated. There are three main groups of reconstructive methods:

  • skin grafts – a procedure that transfers parts of healthy skin from an unaffected area of the body to replace lost or damaged skin, relying on the grafted area to keep the graft alive
  • skin flap surgery – a procedure involving the transfer of a living piece of tissue from one part of the body to another, along with the blood vessels that keep it alive. It is called flap surgery because the healthy tissue usually remains partially attached to the body while it is repositioned, or it can be reconnected to a blood supply in the area where it is placed.
  • tissue expansion – a procedure that enables the body to ‘grow’ extra skin by stretching surrounding tissue, this extra skin can then be used to help reconstruct the nearby area

As well as these main techniques, plastic surgeons use a wide range of other methods – such as vacuum closure (where suction is applied to the wound through a sterile piece of foam to help encourage better healing), camouflage make-up or cream, laser, tattooing and prosthetic devices (for example, artificial limbs).

Plastic surgery is performed by plastic surgeons who have received extensive training and are on the GMC specialist register in plastic surgery. They often belong to professional associations such as the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS). Most people are referred to NHS plastic surgeons by their GP or a specialist consultant they see about their condition.

The Belfast Trust provides:

  • Adult Burns Services
  • Both for acute burns and later reconstruction
  • Complex Skin Cancer
  • Including surgical removal and reconstruction
  • Reconstruction service for breast and gynaecological cancer surgery
  • Reconstructive service for trauma admitted to other specialities, or complications following surgery


The Professional Body for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons

The Professional Body for Burns Care

Changing Faces – A support group for patients with disfigurement

Management of various types of skin cancer in general

Options relating to gynaecological reconstruction

Options relating to breast reconstruction

Locations where this service is delivered

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