What is the pathophysiology of thermal injury from smoke inhalation?

Updated: Nov 06, 2018
  • Author: Keith A Lafferty, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Answer

Thermal damage is usually limited to the oropharyngeal area, in part due to the poor conductivity of air. In addition, heat dissipation in the upper airways and laryngeal reflexes help protect the lower lung areas from direct thermal injury. Animal experiments have shown that 142°C inhaled air cools to 38°C by the time it reaches the carina. Steam, volatile gases, explosive gases, and the aspiration of hot liquids provide some exceptions, as moist air has a much greater heat-carrying capacity than dry air.


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