Degloving Injury

Some accident injuries are common. Whether from a slip and fall, car crash, or other type of incident, the range of minor and moderate injuries you can suffer as a result is wide and varied.

Other injuries — like brain injuries, degloving injuries, and spinal cord injuries— sit in a class by themselves. These catastrophic injuries require expensive medical care and long rehabilitation times. Worse yet, they often produce long-term disabilities that interfere with your ability to work or engage in your daily activities.

One of the most severe catastrophic injuries you can suffer in Pennsylvania is a degloving injury. But what exactly is a degloving injury, and what can you do if you sustain one due to the careless actions of someone else?

What Is a Degloving Injury?

Degloving refers to the mechanism of the injury as well as its appearance after it occurs. In a degloving injury, your skin and tissues get flayed from your body as if you have removed a glove.

Degloving injuries do not occur often. When they happen, they have devastating consequences. When the flesh gets scraped from your body, the blood vessels and nerves get cut or torn. As a result, any reconstructive surgery must restore circulation and at least some innervation.

External Degloving

External degloving injuries can happen in any traumatic incident involving an edge. The edge does not even need to be particularly sharp. Instead, the force combined with the edge slices the tissues off of your body. Thus, a piece of jewelry or even clothing caught in a machine can get tight enough to strip your flesh to the bone.

But most degloving injuries involve a sharp edge. Two common forms of degloving injuries happen during traffic accidents. Broken glass can rip the tissue from your arm when it goes through a side window during a car accident. A broken bicycle frame can flay the flesh of your leg or groin in a bicycle accident.

Doctors may attempt reconstruction of the torn flesh by positioning it in place and reconnecting blood vessels and nerves. But, the success of this operation depends on many factors, including the size and location of the injury and the condition of the torn flesh.

Internal Degloving

Degloving can also happen internally. These injuries typically occur due to shearing forces. A shearing force moves across your skin. Rather than stripping your flesh, the force slides it laterally and opens up a gap deep in your flesh. While uncommon, this injury can happen in a slip and fall accident when your buttock or hip strikes the ground at an angle and slides.

Fluid collects inside the tear created by internal degloving. The fluid pressure, along with a lack of blood flow due to torn blood vessels, can lead to tissue death. Importantly, these injuries often require imaging using a CT or MRI scan for a diagnosis. As a result, many go undiagnosed or get misdiagnosed as bruises or muscle strains, leading to serious complications.

Doctors can use compression to hold the gap closed while it heals. In some cases, they may drain the fluid first so the tissues can contact each other, promoting healing and reducing the pressure damage to surrounding tissues.

What Complications Can Result From a Degloving Injury?

Degloving injuries cause massive tissue damage. This means that you can experience serious complications from them. Some complications you might suffer include the following:

Tissue Death

When the flesh gets stripped, blood vessels can tear. Without their blood supply, your body’s cells begin to die. For doctors to successfully replant the tissue, you must reach an emergency room within a few hours. You must also have a relatively clean flap of tissue for replantation. If your accident mangled or contaminated it, replantation surgery might not succeed.

Consequently, you might lose the flap of flesh that got torn from your body. This loss might significantly weaken the body part. The large wound increases the risk of infection, and your missing tissue can leave you disfigured.

Nerve Damage

Your body cannot regrow nerve cells. Doctors can sometimes replace torn or damaged nerves with nerve grafts. But they must work against the clock after a degloving injury and will generally need to focus on repairing blood vessels and major nerves. 

Because of this, you might have lasting nerve damage that causes symptoms such as:

  • Paralysis
  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Loss of dexterity
  • Weakness

Nerve damage can leave you with severe physical disabilities. They might limit your ability to work or care for yourself. You might incur significant costs as you lose income and hire replacement services.

Vascular Damage

The most serious effect of both internal and external degloving injuries comes from vascular damage. If your blood cannot circulate, you can suffer tissue death and gangrene.

Even if doctors do not attempt to replant the flap of tissue, you can still suffer tissue death due to vascular damage. Swelling in the remaining tissue can squeeze your blood vessels shut. This complication, called compartment syndrome, can cut off circulation to uninjured tissue and cause further tissue death.


In a worst-case scenario, doctors may need to amputate the body part that suffered the degloving injury. This typically happens when they believe the injury threatens the remaining healthy tissue. For example, if an accident strips the flesh from your finger, doctors may recommend amputating it rather than endangering the rest of your hand with gangrene.

Seeking Compensation For a Degloving Injury

If your degloving injury happened due to someone else’s intentional or negligent actions, you may be eligible to pursue compensation for your medical costs and other losses related to your injury. Doing so involves filing a claim and demonstrating the responsible party’s intent or negligence.

To prove intent, you must show that the other party intended to cause harmful contact. Negligence requires proof that the other party failed to exercise reasonable care. Most personal injury cases are based on negligence. Because successfully navigating an injury case can be complex in Pennsylvania, it is crucial to seek the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney.

A Harrisburg Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You Pursue Compensation for a Degloving Injury

A degloving injury has catastrophic consequences. When you turn to a catastrophic injury lawyer for guidance, you can focus on recovering while your attorney handles the details of your case.

The experienced team at Marzzacco Niven & Associates has served as a dedicated voice for injury victims in Central Pennsylvania since 2008. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your degloving injury today.