Are severe burns still deadly to patients?

Burns and traumatic injuries are so significant that they can change a person’s life forever. Burns, when serious, nearly always resulted in death. The potential for infection was high, and the rate of pain people had was difficult to manage. Hospitals did not used to specialize in burns, leaving most victims to suffer in ill-equipped locations. As shortly ago as the mid-1980s, people would still be likely to die from burns with complications such as sepsis or acute respiratory distress.

Today, things are looking up for burn victims. The number of annual victims who succumb to their injuries has dropped by around two-thirds, with around 3,800 suffering fatal burns. What’s more impressive is that the number of people surviving has increased. People with burns covering as much as 90 percent of their bodies can actually survive, although likely with some impairments in the future. Part of the reason for these successes is that there are more hospitals prepared to handle burns and that around 50 percent of victims end up in a specialized burn center prepared for the work it takes to treat such traumatic wounds.

As a result of learning more about bioengineering and cell culturing, new tissues can be grown for patients. Since the tissues may match their own, there’s a lower likelihood of rejection and scarring. This allows for more natural healing overall. Finally, new discoveries about the brain and inflammatory system helps encourage new therapeutic techniques to control pain and inflammation throughout the body.

Burns are no longer as serious as they once were, but they can still be catastrophic to patients. Your life may change, but with good therapy and treatment options, it’s possible to recover.

Source: National Institutes of Health, “Burns and Traumatic Injury,” accessed March 30, 2018

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