A work-related accident involving heavy machinery may result in a degloving injury. Degloving is a type of avulsion injury that may occur on a farm or in an industrial setting when a body part or clothing gets caught in a mechanism. It can affect the upper or lower extremities, torso, scalp or face. It involves a tearing away of the top skin and tissue layers from the bones, muscles and/or connective tissue underneath.
There are two different types of degloving injuries. Some are typically easier to recognize than others. However, treatment should take place as soon as possible to prevent potentially life-threatening complications.
Closed degloving injuries
In a closed degloving injury, the top layer of skin does not break. However, tearing of the lower layers creates space between the skin and the tissues underneath that can fill up with blood, fat and lymph fluid.
Closed degloving injuries can be difficult to recognize. Because the skin does not tear, there may be no outward sign of injury other than an occasional a bruise. However, it is important to receive proper treatment as soon as possible, or tissue death could result.
Open degloving injuries
When the top layers of skin and tissue are entirely ripped away from the underlying structures, this is an open degloving injury. This type is usually easily recognizable, as the skin is either torn completely off or a portion of it remains attached as a flap. With the bones and muscles exposed, an open degloving injury may be more susceptible to infection. It can also result in massive blood loss, which may prove fatal.
Open and closed degloving injuries can both range in severity. Each type can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Closed degloving injuries may be more difficult to recognize, but open degloving injuries are often more difficult to treat due to the complex skin repair that may be necessary.