Physicians will be increasingly responsible for an aging society whose members demonstrate a notable striving for independence.
With standard treatment of burns, older patients will have a survival rate of more than 70%, with at least 60% of patients becoming fully functional 6 months after hospital discharge.
A 7-year retrospective medical record review of burn unit patients was performed, and 221 (11%) of 1957 patients who were at least 59 years old were identified.
Of 97 women (44%) and 124 men (56%), 64 (29%) had an associated smoke inhalation injury; 146 (66%), flame injury; and 44 (20%), scald injury. The bedroom and/or living room were the most common areas of injury (90 [41%]), followed by outdoors and the workplace (62 [28%]), the kitchen (40 [18%]), the bathroom (18 [8%]), and the garage or basement (11 [5%]) (P<.005). One hundred twenty-six injuries (57%) were associated with impaired judgment, mobility, or both. On hospital admission, 74 patients (36%) were intubated, 60 (30%) required intubation postoperatively, and 34 (18%) required both. The survival rate was 159 patients (72%) overall. Findings from an ethanol screening and a drug toxicology screening were positive in 22 and 32 patients (10% and 29%) on admission, respectively. Of the survivors, most were discharged to home with (87 [64%]) or without visiting nurse supervision, and at 6 months after discharge, 16 patients (50%) in transitional care facilities were able to return to an independent level of functioning. Of the 59- to 69-year-old age group, 83 (86%) survived compared with 59 (69%) in the 70- to 79-year-old age group and 18 (47%) in the 80 years and older age group.
In contrast to the usual male preponderance in patients with thermal injury, older women, many of whom are widowed, constituted almost half of the older patients admitted to the hospital. Modalities for injury prevention are necessary to provide optimal and safe household environments for a growing population of older persons.