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J Burn Care Res. 2009 Jul-Aug;30(4):705-10. doi: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e3181abfa9f.

Hot air sauna burns--review of their etiology and treatment.

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Department of Plastic Surgery, Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.


Hot air sauna burns (HASBs) are rare but potentially fatal injuries with simultaneous rhabdomyolysis. The mechanism of HASBs involves prolonged exposure to hot air because of immobility. The burned areas are on the parts of the body that are directly exposed to hot air. This type of heat exposure results in a complex injury, in which full-thickness skin damage occurs concurrently with deeper tissue destruction. Sauna bathing is becoming more and more a popular recreational activity around the world. The objective of this review article is to familiarize burn care specialists on this unique and clinically challenging type of burn injury and to illustrate our department's long experience in treating patients with HASBs. A thorough review of the current literature with PubMed interface using the key word "hot air sauna burn" was performed. Six articles were found under this topic, with 42 patients being recorded. Therapy for rhabdomyolysis and aggressive early operative treatment are the cornerstones of hot air sauna burn treatment and lifesaving actions. Treatment of HASBs differs from the more common flame and scald burns. Hot air sauna burn patients require early and aggressive surgical intervention to treat the rhabdomyolysis. Amputations and excision of the affected muscles are common. Contrary to other types of burn injuries, these patients need flap coverage during the acute surgery phase. Microvascular free flaps usually perish because of damage of vascular structures deeper to the visible burned cutaneous areas. Pedicled flaps are the treatment of choice.

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