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Burns. 1996 May;22(3):177-81.

Quantitative microbiology in the management of burn patients. II. Relationship between bacterial counts obtained by burn wound biopsy culture and surface alginate swab culture, with clinical outcome following burn surgery and change of dressings.

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Department of Microbiology, University College London Hospitals, UK.


The use of quantitative bacteriology in the burns unit has been thought to be efficient in predicting sepsis or graft loss. To examine the relationship between clinical outcome and bacterial densities on and in the burn wound, 69 biopsy/surface swab pairs were collected from 47 patients on 64 occasions, either immediately prior to excision and grafting, or at routine change of dressings. The mean per cent TBSA burn was 16 (range 1-65). There was a significant correlation between log total bacterial count by biopsy with total white cell count and age (P = 0.028), and a significant negative correlation between total bacterial count by swab with per cent TBSA (P = 0.006). There was no significant difference in bacterial counts between patients judged to be a clinical success or clinical failure (72 h follow-up), either after undergoing excision and grafting, or change of dressings, and no difference in counts between patients with perioperative bacteraemia and those without. With burns > 15 per cent TBSA, a relationship between bacterial counts and subsequent sepsis or graft loss still was not demonstrated. It is suggested that quantitative bacteriology by burn wound biopsy or surface swab does not aid the prediction of sepsis or graft loss.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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