Third degree burns are painless - the nerve endings are gone. It's the 2nd (and 1st) degree burns around the edges that hurt like h*ll. So there's usually some pain because not all the burns will be 3rd degree. And it's often not the initial injury, but the pain of debridement/treatment that requires serious painkillers. Think about how badly a blister hurts when air hits it or you pull a bandaid off of it.
It sounds like the acid - thankfully - was confined to a fairly small area. To put it into perspective, the whole head is considered about 9%, so the front of the head would be 4.5%. So 4% it sounds like it's a good part of his face, and maybe parts of neck & shoulder.
I suspect the surgery is a combination of debridement and skin grafts - remove dead tissue, and either replace it with grafts or get it prepped to encourage new growth. I would think the "closure' means grafts - you don't generally pull skin to cover a defect unless it's baggy (for lack of a better word) because it would cause distortion. And I don't think faces tend to have a whole lot extra - unlike, ahem, other part of the human anatomy.
Whether it's the usual loss-in-translation between what the professional (doctors here) said and the press reported, or a difference in approach, it's intriguing. I'd think doctors here would be fairly conservative when making a statement - better for the result to be more positive than predicted, than to predict and not have it turn out so well. That said, I suspect we'd not get as many details because of strict medical privacy laws here.
Kate, I'd venture to say in the US the doctors would say zero -- because malpractice occurs here at the blink of an eye for the smallest things sometimes.
In any case - thanks for that detail. If he meant 4% of the total body and the head is considered 9% then you're right -- the burn area is extensive. I thought that comment was made in the context of the entire body
skin coverage area, which would make it very little. Plastic surgery will no doubt be required to prop up the tissues that are now absent due to being eaten away by the acid. The whole thing is horrible.
By the way, another article pointed out that his wife has not left his bedside and that the doctors encouraged him to walk, but that he walks only with her help -- I think partly bc of the difficulty seeing. Also that same article said he WAS on painkillers. Which the doctor had said, well that at least strong opiates had been avoided, but he is on something. I find it beyond amazing that he's continuing to meet with doctors, investigators, press, officials from the theatre and continue his job through all this. Can you imagine the strength of will, energy and courage that entails?
A final note - his younger sons have not visited him yet in the hospital. His wife felt that would be too traumatic and I agree w/her, for now at least.