The Burn Center | MedStar Health

Accidents can happen to anyone and resulting burn injuries can range from mild to very serious. At MedStar Health, our specialists have the knowledge and expertise to care for a full spectrum of burn injuries and have streamlined access to a collaborative team of providers who will deliver all the care they need under one roof.

The Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

Main entrance to MedStar Washington Hospital CenterWe are the only adult burn treatment center in the Washington Metropolitan area, serving the District, Southern Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Eastern West Virginia. The Burn Center treats more than 500 acute burn-injured patients admitted for treatment each year, with another 700 treated as outpatients.

Our center meets stringent criteria for verification by the American Burn Association for providing excellence in patient care. We feature a multidisciplinary team approach to care that provides comprehensive services for patients from injury through rehabilitation. We also offer scar revision surgery for all patients, regardless of where their care originated.

What sets us apart?

  • Over 50 years of experience as a center and hundreds of years of cumulative experience amongst our multidisciplinary team members
  • Patient-specific, comprehensive care approach for patients with burn injury including outpatient care, acute surgical treatment, reconstructive surgery, and rehabilitation.
  • We are a national leader in laser scar revision, with a practice dedicated to patients with burn and traumatic injuries.
  • We have dedicated psychosocial support services including a full time Psychologist who specializes in diagnosis and treatment of acute stress and post-traumatic stress disorders.
  • Implementation of best practices in treatment and use of the most cutting-edge technologies and innovative therapies to promote healing.
  • A successful outreach and education program to educate high-risk groups about injury prevention and fire safety.
  • Commitment to research and the development of new techniques and technologies around thermal injury, wound healing, critical care, and scar formation through the Firefighters' Burn and Surgical Research Laboratory.
  • Advanced protocols for the triage, treatment, and transfer of burned patients from other acute care facilities. Our surgeons are available 24/7 to advise on initial management of burns large and small.
A multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals poses for a group photo in front of the MedStar Helicopter at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Multidisciplinary team of burn experts

Our multidisciplinary team is among the nation’s most experienced burn experts:

  • Burn surgeons with fellowship level training
  • Advanced Practice Providers
  • Nurses with special training in the care of burn patients
  • Occupation and Physical Therapists with specialty training in burn rehabilitation and scar prevention
  • Dietitians
  • Pharmacists
  • Social workers
  • Mental health providers
  • Outreach and prevention education

Minor burns and outpatient care

Patients not requiring hospitalization are provided outpatient wound care and rehabilitation. There are many factors that influence the severity of a thermal injury. These may include overall size, depth, patient age, cause of injury, and other medical comorbidities. Doctors classify burns into three categories:

  • First Degree Burns - Similar to a sunburn, these superficial injuries only damage the top-most layer of skin. They can be very painful but generally do not require operative intervention or extensive wound care.
  • Second Degree Burns - Any blistering indicates at least a second degree burn. This category of injury is quite variable, with some damaging deep enough into the skin to require a surgery for healing and others only requiring specialized wound care to heal. These injuries have a risk of scar formation and can become deeper if not appropriately treated soon after injury.
  • Third Degree Burns - Unless very small, all third degree injuries require operative intervention. This is because they damage all the layers of the skin and do not have the capacity to heal on their own. All third degree burns should be referred to a burn center for treatment.


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Skin is the largest organ of the xhuman body. Exposure to extreme heat radiation electrical shock or chemical agents can burn the skin causing pain blistering and in severe cases irreversible damage.

Treatment for minor burns

Burns that are red, tender, and not blistered are often safe to treat at home.

Things you can do at home:

Close up photo of a person putting cold water on their arm under a faucet.Dos:

  • Run cool or room-temperature water over the area to soothe the pain.
  • Keep the skin clean using soap and water.
  • Moisturize the area using non-dyed, non-perfumed lotions, such as Aquaphor or Aveeno.
  • Take an over-the-counter medication, such as ibuprofen, at the first sign to reduce pain and inflammation, as long as you don’t have any health reasons to not use these medications.
  • Seek professional care if you think you have an infection or severe burn.

Don’ts: Never try these unhelpful treatments.

  • Ice: This can lead to frostbite, converting one injury to another.
  • Food products: Foods, beverages, or condiments such as mustard, ketchup, butter and honey will not do your skin any favors.
  • Unusual chemicals: Such as gel from air fresheners, or rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. This will irritate your skin even more.
  • Antibiotics or antibiotic ointments: Especially if you’ve never used these types of treatments before.
  • More sun: Don’t re-expose the area to the sun while it’s healing.

Inpatient care

MedStar Health provides a multidisciplinary approach to the care of critically injured patients in the Burn Intensive Care Unit and Burn Intermediate Care Unit. We implement best practices in treatment and use of the most cutting-edge technologies and innovative therapies to promote healing. Patients are admitted to our inpatient care unit when they experience burns requiring specialized wound care or surgical intervention.

Intermediate Care Unit

Our Intermediate Care Unit provides nursing care and rehabilitation therapy for noncritical, burn-injured patients and critically injured patients who have progressed to the rehabilitation phase of care. Patients can expect expert wound care, active rehabilitation, nutritional goals aimed at optimizing wound healing, mental health support, and planning for life after the hospital.

Dr Taryn Travis demonstrates the use of laser therapy equipment on on a patient's arm at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Surgical burn treatment

When surgery is required, this is performed in a dedicated operating room within the Burn Center. Reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation are available for patients in the post-acute and convalescent phases of their care, regardless of where they received treatment for their acute burns.

For patients suffering from pain, itching, tightness, and discoloration associated with burn or traumatic scars, we can offer multiple interventions, including compression and massage, laser scar revision, and surgical reconstruction. If you are interested in scar revision, please contact the Burn Clinic at 202-877-7347 to schedule an appointment with one of our surgeons.

Aftercare and rehabilitation

We offer aftercare and reintegration assistance for life after injury. A team of specially trained occupational and physical therapists work with patients to help them regain physical function and relearn the skills of daily living.

A burn therapist works with a patient to provide therapy to his hand at MedStar Health.

Mental health

We have dedicated psychosocial support services including a full time psychologist who specializes in diagnosis and treatment of acute stress and post-traumatic stress disorders as well as nonpharmacologic strategies for pain management. Our psychologist is available for consultation and support for patients both during inpatient hospitalization and on an outpatient basis.

Outreach and educational programming

The Burn Center engages with our community for education and injury prevention.

Our prevention program provides Advanced Burn Life Support (ABLS) courses to frontline providers such as Fire & Rescue, Emergency and Urgent Care staff, nurses and interested clinical professionals. In addition, at-risk populations such as parents of young children and seniors are provided with critical information on prevention and treatment of minor burns.

Professional education and research

Our multidisciplinary team provides education and clinical training to students in many health care specialties including physicians-in-training, surgeons and critical care specialists. We also participate in training and educating first responders, emergency departments, urgent care centers, and primary care providers.

MedStar Health’s active basic science and clinical research programs are on the forefront of development of novel solutions to understanding thermal injury, wound healing, critical care, and scar formation. In addition, the medical team is widely published in peer-reviewed journals and actively participates in a multitude of national and international societies. Our clinical research program offers a wide array of clinical trials and most patients qualify for at least one study, if they wish.


Laser therapy for scars

Painful, itchy, or tight scar tissue can make life more difficult for patients as they recover from burns or traumatic injuries. With laser scar revision, we have another tool available to relieve pain, restore motion, and improve the quality of their lives.

Interested in laser scar revision? Call 202-877-7347 for an appointment with one of our specialists.

Our providers

Doctors Shupp and Johnson pose for a portrait in the burn unit at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Expert burn care

Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our specialists.

Frequently ask questions

  • When should I see a burn specialist?

    If you believe to have a worse than a first degree burn, or anything with blistering or size larger than the palm of your hand, we recommend you seek professional care.

  • How long do burns take to heal?

    Healing times vary according to depth, cause, and location of injury.

  • What do I need to know about electrical or chemical burns?

    Electrical burns can be caused by a variety of sources of electricity. Lightning, stun guns, and contact with job site or household current are some examples. These types of injuries are often more severe than is apparent and should always be referred to a burn center.

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