Burn Centers Provide Specialized Burn Injury Treatment

A burn center or burn unit is a specialized treatment facility for patients who meet specified criteria as a result of injuries suffered from a burn. Mortality rates from extensive burns are high, and are often the result of organ failure, infection, and sepsis, as well as respiratory damage from inhalation injury.

A verified burn and trauma center offers specialized equipment, services, and staff with additional training in the treatment of severe burns and trauma injuries. Verified centers must demonstrate leadership in outreach and prevention, research, education, and they must demonstrate the ability to care for the most severely injured patients. Verification as a Level 1 trauma center does not constitute verification as a specialized burn facility.

Guidelines for Burn Centers

Of patients who require hospitalization as a result of burn injuries, almost 20,000 are admitted annually either directly or from hospital referral to centers with specialized capabilities in burn treatment. Guidelines governing burn centers make up the burn care system. One of the primary guidelines governing burn centers is that the burn center hospital must establish and maintain a formally organized burn program responsible solely for coordinating the care of burned patients.

Burn centers must maintain consistent protocols and must report to the American Burn Association’s National Burn Repository.

Treatment in Burn Centers

Treatment at a burn center may include antimicrobial ointments, but severe burns require IV antibiotics such as gentamicin or oxacillin, because the risk of infection is high when the percentage of the body surface area that is burned is large. In severe burn injuries, anabolic steroids such as oxandrolone may be used to reduce healing time.

However, primary treatment of severe burns will involve quick debridement, or removal of dead tissue, and skin grafting. Skin grafts consist of taking a thin layer of skin from either another part of the body or from a donor, sometimes and animal, and sewing it over the burn area after debridement. Artificial skin is also used sometimes as a protective barrier to microbial pathogens.

Severe thermal injury is now treated by early excision and grafting of the skin, as well as aggressive fluid resuscitation and new classes of antibiotics. Burn centers are best qualified to treat those patients at risk for severe morbidity or mortality from their thermal injury.

Cosmetic surgery may be necessary to improve the appearance of the burned area, and the function.

A study at the Shriner’s Hospital in  Galveston in 2009 found that sepsis was the leading cause of pediatric  burn deaths at the center, although patients died from anoxic brain injuries and multidrug resistant infections. Since the skin is the body’s natural barrier to infection, the role of infection in burn victims cannot be underestimated.

The American Burn Association Criteria for transfer to a burn center includes second degree burns on greater than 10 percent of the body surface area, and third degree burns. Burns to the face, hands, feet, genitalia and perineal region should be transferred to a burn center for care. Patients with chemical or electrical burns require treatment at a burn center, and those with inhalation injury should also be transferred. Burns that circle a body part, called circumferential burns, should be transferred to a burn center for a higher level of care, and any hospital without adequately trained personnel should transfer pediatric patients who present with burns.

Burn center treatment is often the most appropriate treatment for severe or specialized burn injuries, and it is important to recognize when this higher level of care is needed. Failure to transfer a patient to a burn center may result in unnecessary morbidity or mortality.

If you or a loved one has experienced a severe burn injury and were not transferred to a burn center in a timely manner, you may have experienced additional damages from your injuries. Or, if the burn injuries were caused by the negligent or reckless conduct of another, you should contact an experienced burn attorney at the Burn Injury Firm today.