Degloving injuries are the result of trauma to the body that causes tissue planes to separate. The name “degloving” invokes a mental image that is only partially accurate. Picture the removal of a glove from a hand, now make the glove one or more planes of living tissue. Scalping is a degloving injury. These are open degloving injuries.
The injury can also be closed. If a shearing force is applied to the body with sufficient power but of brief enough duration the skin may not tear. The separation of the tissue planes breaks blood vessels. The upper layers of the separated tissue may become necrotic from a lack of blood supply. The more planes of tissue involved, the more difficult it will be to heal. In a closed degloving injury the skin may be abnormally loose as it lacks the normal connections to underlying tissues.
Degloving injuries are often the result of an accident with machinery or a pedestrian struck by a car. They have also occurred during routine neonatal circumcision, where the skin of the penis shaft is pulled back too hard during the procedure. Trauma to the mouth can result in a degloving injury of the gingivae and mucosa.
Degloving injuries occur in humans and animals. Certain animals are very prone to certain types of degloving injuries.
Gerbils’ tails are easily degloved if the animal is grasped by the tail while running or lifted by the tail. Our family experienced this with a pet gerbil and a then very young daughter…. She grabbed the critter to prevent her escape into the couch cushions and was left holding an empty tube of skin and fur. The critter’s tail (muscle and bone was still intact) was amputated by the vet and girl + gerbil both recovered just fine.
Rabbits have very loose skin and degloving injuries can occur if they are lifted by the scruff of the neck. Their bottom should always be supported when lifting.
Animals hit by a car are of course also prone to degloving injuries