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J Trauma. 1988 May;28(5):642-7.

Chemical burns.

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U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas 78234-6200.


In chemical skin injuries, reduction of the time of exposure to the causative agent and recognition of systemic toxicity are necessary to lessen the severity of the insult, reduce morbidity, and maximize survival. During a 17-year period (1969 through 1985), 87 (2.1%) of the 4,212 burned patients admitted to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research sustained chemical burns. Twelve of 87 patients died (13.8%). White phosphorous, the most common causative agent, produced cutaneous injury in 49 patients. Acids (13 patients), alkalies (ten patients), and organic solvents (five patients) were the other common causes of injury. Initial treatment consisted of water lavage. Later wound management was carried out with topical antibiotic therapy and excision and grafting as necessary. Systemic toxicity due to phenol, nitrate, and formate absorption occurred, as did acute tubular necrosis following copper sulfate treatment of white phosphorus burns. Inhalation injury occurred in five patients. A decrease in hospital stay for chemically injured patients was observed. To minimize chemical injury, clothing should be removed promptly and water lavage begun. Systemic toxicity and inhalation injury are rare but often severe and increase mortality.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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