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ANZ J Surg. 2004 May;74(5):318-23.

Early in-hospital management of burn injuries in Australia.

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  • 1Burns unit, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, New South Wales, Australia.



The accurate initial assessment and management of burn injuries influences subsequent clinical outcome. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate, over a 12-year period (1989-2001), changes in the practices of referring hospitals in terms of early management of patients with burn injuries prior to transfer to a burns unit.


The details of all consecutive patients over two separate 12-month periods between June 1989 to May 1990 and between April 2000 and March 2001 who were transferred to the Burns Unit, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, Sydney, were prospectively recorded and retrospectively reviewed. In particular, the referral procedure, the accuracy of the referring hospital's assessment of burn size and initial fluid resuscitation were compared between the two time frames.


There were 51 patients in the initial 12-month period and 57 patients in the latter 12-month period. Regarding the transfer of the latter group of patients, the referring hospital liaised directly by telephone with the Burns Unit registrar or consultant significantly more often (77%vs 45%, respectively, P < 0.05). Similar proportions of patients in the two time periods received correct initial assessment of burn size (39% in the 1989-1990 group vs 42% in the 2000-2001 group, P = 0.76). The latter group of patients was significantly more likely to receive the correct choice of fluid for initial resuscitation at the referring hospital (98%vs 61%, respectively, P < 0.05).


Over this 12-year period, there has been marked improvement in referral practices and appropriate initial fluid resuscitation for patients with burn injuries. Referring hospitals' assessment of burn size has not improved. Possible reasons for the observed changes include: increased postgraduate education programmes by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Australian and New Zealand Burns association; the formalization of emergency medicine training programmes by the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine and increasing awareness within the medical community of the presence of dedicated burns units.

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