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J Burn Care Res. 2010 Jan-Feb;31(1):151-7. doi: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e3181c7ed60.

Critical review of burn depth assessment techniques: part II. Review of laser doppler technology.

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The Burn Center, Department of Surgery, Washington Hospital Center, Washington, DC 20010, USA.


The judgment of which wounds are expected to heal within 21 days is one of the most difficult and important tasks of the burn surgeon. The quoted accuracy of 64 to 76% by senior burn surgeons underscores the importance of an adjunct technology to help make this determination. A plethora of techniques have been developed in the last 70 years. Laser Doppler imaging (LDI) is one of the most recent and widely studied of these techniques. The technology provides an estimate of perfusion through the burn wound, the assumption being that a lower perfusion correlates with a deeper wound and, therefore, a longer time to heal. Although some reports suggest accuracy between 96 and 100% and that it does this 2 days ahead of clinical judgment, others have questioned its applicability to clinical practice. This article, the second of a two-part series, has two objectives: 1) a review of the Doppler principle and how the LDI uses it to estimate perfusion; and 2) a critical assessment of the burn literature on the LDI. Part I provides a historical perspective of the different technologies used through the last 70 years to assist in the determination of burn depth. Laser Doppler has brought technology closer to provide a reliable adjuvant to the clinical prediction of healing, yet, caution is warranted. A clear understanding of the limitations of LDI is needed to put the current research in perspective to find the right clinical application for LDI.

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