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Burns. 2007 Feb;33(1):2-13.

Respiratory management of inhalation injury.

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Respiratory Care Department, Shriners Hospital for Children, Galveston, TX, USA.


Advances in the care of patients with major burns have led to a reduction in mortality and a change in the cause of their death. Burn shock, which accounted for almost 20 percent of burn deaths in the 1930s and 1940s, is now treated with early, vigorous fluid resuscitation and is only rarely a cause of death. Burn wound sepsis, which emerged as the primary cause of mortality once burn shock decreased in importance, has been brought under control with the use of topical antibiotics and aggressive surgical debridement. Inhalation injury has now become the most frequent cause of death in burn patients. Although mortality from smoke inhalation alone is low (0-11 percent), smoke inhalation in combination with cutaneous burns is fatal in 30 to 90 percent of patients. It has been recently reported that the presence of inhalation injury increases burn mortality by 20 percent and that inhalation injury predisposes to pneumonia. Pneumonia has been shown to independently increase burn mortality by 40 percent, and the combination of inhalation injury and pneumonia leads to a 60 percent increase in deaths. Children and the elderly are especially prone to pneumonia due to a limited physiologic reserve. It is imperative that a well organized, protocol driven approach to respiratory care of inhalation injury be utilized so that improvements can be made and the morbidity and mortality associated with inhalation injury be reduced.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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