Degloving injuries – your key questions answered

A degloving injury is a severe injury where the outer skin becomes separated from the tissue underneath. Degloving injuries of legs, hands and arms are the most common. Degloving injuries of the head or torso are normally fatal. In this article, Moore Barlow Senior Associate Solicitor, Matthew Tuff, discusses the causes of this particularly distressing injury and explores how the Moore Barlow Major Trauma Service can help on the road to rehabilitation.

What are the different types of degloving injury?

Degloving injuries can be divided into two types – open degloving injuries and closed degloving injuries.

An open degloving injury is where the skin becomes detached and completely torn away from the underlying tissue and muscle, rather like if you imagine a glove on a person’s hand and it is gradually removed in a ‘peeling action’ so that the glove is left inside out.

With a closed degloving injury, the skin and upper level of tissue becomes separated from the deeper tissue, however the skin remains in place, which means that the degloving injury can be harder for the doctors to spot. Often the only visible symptom is a bruise. An MRI scan may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Closed degloving injuries are much rarer than open injuries.

What can cause a degloving injury?

Degloving injuries often occur in accidents involving heavy machinery. In road traffic accidents, for example, they are often seen amongst cyclists or pedestrians that are involved in collisions with vehicles. They are often accompanied by fractures to the underlying bones, although not always. It is not unusual to see these injuries where a cyclist is run over by a lorry; the tyres are made of a tough material that grips the skin and pulls it away from the deeper tissue.

In accidents at work, degloving injuries may be caused by contact with conveyor belts or roller machines. They usually affect the upper limbs and may also be accompanied by a brachial plexus injury.

How do you treat a degloving injury?

Degloving injuries usually necessitate extensive surgery. This may involve skin grafts or revascularisation operations. These injuries often lead to significant blood loss and death of the underlying tissue. More severe injuries may lead to the need for amputation.

How can Moore Barlow help?

At the Moore Barlow Major Trauma Service, we support many individuals with degloving injuries. At the outset of the claim, our focus is to assist the patient meet any rehabilitation needs over and above those that are met by the NHS. When the patient is discharged from hospital victims may find that the support from the statutory services falls away quite sharply even though the patient would benefit from further treatment and equipment. We work hard to ensure that funding is in place to allow treatment to continue and to enable the patient to achieve the best outcome possible.