• Any burns involving the dermis, superficial partial-thickness, or deeper allow for significant transdermal fluid losses
  • Burns >60% BSA often associated with cardiac output depression unresponsive to fluids
  • Inhalation injury is main cause of mortality
    • Half of patients admitted to burn centers develop ARDS

Jackson’s Burn Wound Model

Zone Name Location Tissue Damage Change with Treatment
Coagulation Inner Dead Not changed
Stasis Middle Dynamic penumbra Target of burn care: good first aid and wound management can significantly reduce the need for skin grafting (otherwise it can turn into zone of coagulation, if not properly treated)
Hyperemia Outer Reactive inflammation Will return to normal within hours of the injury regardless of care

Explains the dynamic nature of burn injuries and how assessment of size and depth at the time of injury can be different compared to 48 hours later

Pre-Hospital Care

  • Immerse wounds in cold water (1-5˚C)
    • Only effective within first 30 mins
    • No direct ice to wound
    • Do not apply creams or ointments
  • Remove all burned/burning clothing, jewelry
    • Also remove rings or jewelry distal to injury due to anticipated swelling
  • Assess for signs of inhalational injury
    • Hoarse voice, soot in nose or mouth, stridor, wheezing
    • Start humidified O2
    • Intubate if necessary (see below)
  • Intravenous fluid (see below)

Clinical Features

Burn Thickness Chart[1]

Thickness Deepest Skin Structure Involved Pain & Sensation Appearance Expected Course Image
Superficial (first-degree)
  • Epidermis
  • Painful
  • Dry, erythema (no blisters)
  • Blanching (intact cap refill)
  • Heals without scarring, 5-10 days


Superficial Partial (second-degree)
  • Superficial dermis (papillary region)
  • Painful
  • Wet, pale pink, blisters
  • Blanching (intact cap refill)
  • Heals without scarring, <3 weeks

Hand2ndburn.jpg Scaldburn.jpg

Deep Partial (second-degree)
  • Deep dermis (reticular region)
  • Decreased sensation
  • Pale white-yellow, blisters
  • Does not blanch (absent cap refill)
  • Heals in 3-8 weeks
  • Likely to scar if healing >3 weeks
  • May require skin-graft if does not heal within 3 weeks


Full (third-degree)
  • Hypodermis (subcutaneous tissue)
  • Decreased sensation
  • White, leathery
  • Does not blanch (absent cap refill)
  • Heals by contracture, >8 weeks
  • Almost always requires skin grafting


  • Underlying fat, muscle and bone
  • Decreased sensation
  • Black; charred with eschar
  • Does not blanch (absent cap refill)
  • Does not heal
  • Frequently requires amputation

Ожог кисть.jpg

Differential Diagnosis


Vesiculobullous rashes





  • Carboxyhemoglobin level
  • Carbon monoxide and cyanide levels
  • VBG, CBC, chem, total CK
  • CXR
  • ECG
  • Urinalysis (assess for myoglobinuria)
  • Coagulation studies (severe burn patients can suffer from coagulopathies such as DIC)
  • Lactate (higher lactate levels suggest increase mortality rate and inadequate resuscitation)
  • Serial assessments for compartment syndrome



  • Consider empirically treating for cyanide toxicity especially if fire was in an enclosed place

Not Severe (Outpatient)

  • Cleanse burn with mild soap and water or dilute antiseptic solution
  • Debride wound as needed
  • Consider a topical antimicrobial:
    • Bacitracin, neomycin, or mupirocin
    • AVOID Silver Sulfadiazine as it may interfere with partial thickness healing and offers no healing advantage (inhibits keratinocytes) [2][3]
  • Consider use of synthetic occlusive dressings (see burn dressings)
  • Blisters
    • Leave blisters intact unless they cross a joint or if a large blisters precludes application of a dressing
    • Aspiration is preferred to deroofing[4]
  • Tetanus vaccine (if 2nd degree or higher)

Severe (Inpatient)

  • IVF (see below)
  • Analgesia
  • Remove all rings, watches, jewelry, belts
  • Local burn care (burn dressing)
    • Contact burn center BEFORE applying any antiseptic dressings
    • Small wound: moist saline-soaked dressing
    • Large wound: sterile drape
  • Antibiotics
    • Administer in coordination with burn physician
    • Prophylactic antibiotics have been abandoned - debridement is paramount to prevent infection
    • Maintain glucose control to prevent infection[5]
    • Core temperature is usually "reset" to 38-39°C, so fever in the absence of other symptoms of sepsis does not indicate infection[6]
    • If septic, start broad spectrum antimicrobials - be sure to assess for need for antifungals in addition to antibiotics
  • Nasogastric Tube
    • Consider if partial-thickness burn >20% BSA (ileus frequently occurs)[7]
    • Definite NG tubes in burns > 30% in adults and 25% in children
  • Early GI prophylaxis (PPI/H2 blocker)
    • evidence of stress ulceration even within hours after major burns[8]
  • Tetanus vaccine

Fluid Resuscitation


  • The Parkland formula (4mL*kg × % TBSA of burns, not including superficial burns) and modified Brooke formula (2ml/kg/%TBSA) are the two most widely used resuscitation formulas.[9]
    • There is general agreement that there is an increasing tendency to over-resuscitate during burn shock.[10]
    • Resuscitation recommendations are only a guide; must titrate to patient's urine output, clear sensorium, and HR less than 110
    • Give least amount of fluid necessary to sustain organ perfusion (avoid "fluid creep")
    • Patients with inhalation injury and/or multi-system trauma may require more fluid.
  • Goal directed therapy with Swan-Ganz catheters, inotropes, and fluid support have shown no superiority to standard clinical parameters, and have increased over-resuscitation and incidence of abdominal compartment syndrome (see below)[11]

Indications based on Total Body Surface Area (TBSA) of Burn

  • Definite IV: Adults > 20%, Peds > 15%
  • Perhaps IV: Adults 15-20%, Peds 10-15%
  • Oral adequate: Adults < 15%, Peds < 10%
Types of fluids
  • Many burn centers prefer lactated ringers unless shock liver or hepatic failure suspected
  • Colloids generally not used unless burns > 40% TBSA
  • Do not use dextrose in adults (false UOP), but children should receive small amounts due to small glycogen stores
Fluid Quantity
  • 2-4mL x weight (kg) x %TBSA (2nd and 3rd degree only) = mL NS (or LR) over 24hr
  • Give 1/2 in first 8hr, remainder in next 16hr
  • Give Parkland + maintenance fluid (2-4cc/kg x %BSA) if age < 5 yrs old
  • Give 1/2 in first 8 hr, remainder in next 16 hr
  • Can consider giving D5 1/2 NS if patient < 20 kg to prevent hypoglycemia

Goal UOP

  • If UOP is greater than expected, consider glycosuria and reactive hyperglycemia as cause.
  • Maintain urine output of 0.5-1 mL/kg/hr' urine in adults and 1-2 mL/kg/hr in children weighing < 30 kg[12]
  • If myoglobinuria seen, double expected UOP until urine grossly clears (consider mannitol diuresis)

Intubation Guidelines

  • Full-thickness burns of the face or perioral region
  • Circumferential neck burns
  • Acute respiratory distress
  • Progressive hoarseness or air hunger
  • Respiratory depression
  • Altered mental status
  • Supraglottic edema and inflammation on bronchoscopy

Escharotomy Burn Indications

  • Circumferential eschar with one of the following:
    • Circumferential torso - restricted ventilation
    • Circumferential extremities - vascular compromise
  • Immediate escharotomy if compartment pressure > 30 mmHg
  • Elevate limb and optimize fluid status

Special Cases

  • In burns > 40% in adults and > 30% in children < 5 yo, consider colloids which reduce abdominal compartment syndrome[13][14]
    • Consider replacing 25% of IVF with FFP, so that total IV rate is unaltered through the 24 hrs post-burn
    • In children, give 1/2 of total volume as FFP and 1/2 as LR throughout 24 hrs
    • For infants < 2 yrs with > 30%, use 5% dextrose in LRs with the FFP
  • Burns > 50% or SEVERE metabolic acidosis may require 44 mEq of bicarb to each 1 L of LR in first 24 hrs, maintain bicarb > 18
  • Vitamin C to reduce fluid volume requirements and prevent capillary leak[15]
    • Consider infusion of 66 mg/kg/hr for 24 hours of Vitamin C infusion for > 30% TBSA
    • To be started within 6 hours of burn injury

Beyond 24 hrs

  • 24-48 hrs - patients require ~1/2 total volume given in first 24 hrs; change LRs to D5,1/2NS; give FFP 2 units for every liter of crystalloid
  • 48-72 hrs - no formula; take into account TBSA/depth of burns (open partial thickness loss > full thickness with thick eschar), re-mobilization of 3rd space fluid beginning at this time


Outpatient Treatment

24-48hr follow-up

  • Partial thickness <10% BSA, age 10–50y
  • Partial thickness <5% BSA, age <10y or >50y
  • Full thickness <2% in anyone
  • No major burn characteristics present

Hospital admission

  • Partial thickness 10-20% BSA 10-50 yrs old
  • Partial thickness 5-10% BSA in <10 or > 50 yrs old
  • Full thickness burns 2-5% BSA in anyone
  • High voltage injury
  • Circumferential burns of an extremity
  • Burns complicated by suspected inhalation injury
  • significant comorbidities
  • No major burn characteristics present

Burn Center Transfer Criteria[16]

  • Partial thickness >20% BSA (10-50 years old)
  • Partial thickness >10% BSA (<10 or > 50 yrs old)
  • Full thickness >5% BSA (any age)
  • Burns involving face, eyes, ears, genitalia, joints, hands, feet
  • Burns with inhalation injury
  • High voltage electrical burn
  • Chemical burns
  • Burns complicated by fracture or other trauma (in which burn is main cause of morbidity)
  • Burns in high-risk patients

See Also

External Links


  1. Haines E, et al. Optimizing emergency management to reduce morbidity and mortality in pediatric burn patients. Pediatric Emergency Medicine Practice. 12(5):1-23. EB Medicine.
  2. Hussain S et al. Best evidence topic report: Silver sulphadiazine cream in burns. Emerg Med J. 2006 Dec;23(12):929-32.
  3. Atiyeh B et al. Effect of silver on burn wound infection control and healing: Review of the literature. Burns. 2007 Mar;33(2):139-48
  4. 29703044
  5. Jeschke MG. Clinical review: Glucose control in severely burned patients - current best practice. Crit Care. 2013; 17(4): 232.
  6. Weber J and McManus A. Infection Control in Burn Patients. http://www.worldburn.org/documents/infectioncontrol.pdf
  7. Herndon DN (Ed): Total Burn Care. Philadelphia, Elsevier Saunders, 2007
  8. DePriest JL. Stress ulcer prophylaxis. Do critically ill patients need it? Postgrad Med. 1995;98(4):159.
  9. American Burn Association Consensus Statements. 2013. DOI: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e31828cb249
  10. American Burn Association Consensus Statements. 2013. DOI: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e31828cb249
  11. Saffle JI. The phenomenon of "fluid creep" in acute burn resuscitation. J Burn Care Res. 2007 May-Jun;28(3):382-95.
  12. Singer AJ, Lee CC. Thermal burns. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, et al., eds. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2018:715–724.
  13. MetroHealth Burn ICU Handbook (Not a policy manual), Cleveland, OH
  14. Lawrence, A et Al. Colloid Administration Normalizes Resuscitatin Ratio and Ameliorates "Fluid Creep." Journal of Burn Care & Research: January/February 2010 - Volume 31 - Issue 1 - pp 40-47.
  15. Dubick MA, Williams C, et al. High-dose Vitamin C infusion reduces fluid requirements in the resuscitation of burn-injured sheep. Shock 2005; 24:139-144.
  16. American Burn Association