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J Burn Care Res. 2018 Nov 19. doi: 10.1093/jbcr/iry060. [Epub ahead of print]

Emergency Care of The Burn Patient Before The Burn Center: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

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Ross Tilley Burn Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and University of Toronto, Canada.



Good burn care starts with correct management of the burn patient prior to transfer to a burn center. The purpose of this study was to perform a systematic review of the medical literature describing pre-burn center care.


The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed for this review. Studies were included if they were published from a burn center and they measured or evaluated any aspect of pre-burn center care of adult or pediatric acute burn patients referred to that burn center. A comprehensive search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases was performed from their inception to May 28, 2018. Outcomes of interest included errors in burn size estimation, airway management, fluid resuscitation, dressings and wound care, use of systemic antibiotics, core temperature monitoring and preservation, and analgesia provision. Meta-analysis of the discrepancy between pre-burn center and burn center burn size estimation was conducted.


From 3768 initially identified titles, 37 studies were included in this systematic review. Burn size estimation was frequently inaccurate. The ratio of overestimation to underestimation in burn size ranged between 2.2:1 to 19:1. The pooled mean absolute error in % total body surface area burn was 6.28 (95% CI: 4.72, 7.85). The average relative percent error in burn size estimation by referring providers ranged between 75% and 3500%. Unnecessary endotracheal intubation was performed in 28% to 53% of transfers. Over-estimation and over-delivery of fluid resuscitation volumes was prevalent, but other problems pertaining to resuscitation included administration of the wrong fluid, and failure to titrate fluids. Wounds were not consistently covered with simple dry dressings or sheets. Core temperature was not consistently monitored or preserved. Analgesics were often not given or were of insufficient dose.


Many elements of pre-burn center care need improvement. These findings should be used to form the foundation of future initiatives between burn professionals and emergency providers to improve care of the burn patient before transfer to a burn center.


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