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Burns. 2001 Mar;27(2):196-9.

Burn injuries caused by air bag deployment.

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Department of Plastic Surgery, Hand Surgery - Burn Centre, Aachen University of Technology, Pauwelsstrasse 30, 52057, Aachen, Germany.


Automobile air bags have gained acceptance as an effective measure to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with motor vehicle accidents. As more cars have become equipped with them, new problems have been encountered that are directly attributable to the deployment of the bag itself. An increasing variety of associated injuries has been reported, including minor burns. We present two automobile drivers who were involved in front-impact crashes with air bag inflation. They sustained superficial and partial-thickness burns related to the deployment. The evaluation of these cases shows mechanisms involved in burn injuries caused by the air bag system. Most of the burns are chemical and usually attributed to sodium hydroxide in the aerosol created during deployment. Also direct thermal burns from high-temperature gases or indirect injuries due to the melting of clothing, as well as friction burns from physical contact are possible. However, the inherent risks of air bag-related burns are still outweighed by the benefits of preventing potentially life-threatening injuries.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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