Advances in burn treatment including early excision of the wound have increased survival in patients treated at specialized burn centers. We hypothesized that the patients with delayed wound excision and grafting would experience deleterious outcomes.
From 1995 to 1999, 157 children with acute burns covering 40% or more of total body surface area and having more than 10% of full-thickness burns were admitted to our institution within 2 weeks of injury. Among them, 86, 42, and 29 patients underwent first operation on days 0 to 2, days 3 to 6, and days 7 to 14 after burn, respectively. Outcomes observed were mortality, number of operative procedures, length of hospitalization, blood transfused, incidence of wound bacterial and fungal contamination, invasive wound infection, and sepsis.
Demographic data for the groups showed no differences in sex or total body surface area burned. Mortality and number of operative procedures and blood transfusions were not different between groups. Hospitalizations were longer in the delayed groups, which was associated with a higher incidence of significant wound contamination (P = .008). Invasive wound infection also increased significantly with delay of excision (P<.001). An increased incidence of sepsis was seen in patients with delayed wound excision and grafting (P = .04).
Delays in excision were associated with longer hospitalization and delayed wound closure, as well as increased rates of invasive wound infection and sepsis. Our data indicate that early excision within 48 hours is optimal for pediatric patients with massive burns.