Chuck Yeager's autobiography has a chapter on how he got severe face burns in an accident and how an unconventional treatment helped him avoid scars. He says that the scars were repeatedly scraped off in a very painful procedure until the skin heals without scars. The procedure must be applied very soon after the burn, before the skin has properly healed with scars.

I couldn't find any references to such a procedure in the sources I searched. Does it really exist? What kind of a success rate does it have?


2 Answers 2


Researching this on the web seems to indicate that the process is called "Daily dermal debridement"

It appears that wound debridement is a treatment used to remove dead flesh to reduce infection specifically. This seems reasonable sensible. And it appears debridement has been used to treat burns for some time. Indeed - apparently

Manual debridement, often done by nurses or burn care technicians after wound cleansing, involves the scraping or pulling off of loose nonviable skin

The other question is whether it could be used as an option to reduce scarring. Debridement does appear to reduce scarring according to some papers. And some sites recommend it as a treatment to reduce scarring.

All the above is a little vague as I am far from a medical expert, but I think it lays out what treatment appears to have been used, and that it is used to treat scarring. It appears Chuck was offered and took a form of regular manual debridement.


It is not actually scraping, but bathing (Hydrotherapy) to soften the scabbing (Eschar) that occurs, then sponge off the softened Eschar, can be very painful depending on the type of burn. This procedure comes after the initial debridement which is much more invasive and painful, and done for different reasons than scaring minimization.

Hydrotherapy as a mode of treatment for burns has been advocated or criticized by several authors, and undoubtedly it is widely used. We can'scarcely imagine a Burn Unit without a properly equipped hydrotherapy room. We agree with Yang Chih (1982), Carvajal (1988) and Craig (1982) in considering the purposes of hydrotherapy to be:

to enhance desloughing and to clean the wound surface;

to drain pus and to help debride;

to alter microbial flora;

to enhance healthy tisue formation and healing;

to facilitate physical therapy; and

to comfort and psychologically uplift the patient.

Does not really prevent scarring but promotes proper healing giving it the best chance of less scarring.

May not be performed on all burn patients, depends on the severity of the burn and area covered.

Source of Information

  • What makes you so sure it was hydrotherapy? And not some sort of scraping? Numerous on-line sources refer to it as scraping (I assume the phrase comes direct from his autobiography). And it would be pretty difficult to confuse the techniques I guess. I'm genuinely curious as to why.
    – NotJarvis
    Aug 17, 2011 at 11:22
  • Scraping sounds like a non medical term, post the sources.
    – Moab
    Aug 17, 2011 at 21:51
  • ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2921268 More links and sources in my answer.
    – NotJarvis
    Aug 19, 2011 at 7:28
  • This is done before skin grafts, not the same as promoting healing and scar prevention. A different procedure for a different burn treatment "scraping and debriding partial-thickness burn wounds and other chronic wounds encountered by the burn surgeon "before autograft" placement."
    – Moab
    Aug 20, 2011 at 3:23

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