What is the prevalence of smoke inhalation injury?

Updated: Oct 15, 2021
  • Author: Keith A Lafferty, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Estimates for fatal residential building fires reported annually to US fire departments are 1,800 incidents, 2,635 deaths, 725 injuries, and $196 million in property loss. The death rate has decreased in the past 3 decades, from 30 deaths per million population to 11 deaths per million population. [28] Fire death rates in the United States and Canada are twice as high as in Western Europe and Japan. [31] Burns and fires are the third leading cause of nontransport-related accidental death in all age groups in the United States. They comprise the second leading cause of death in the home for all ages and the leading cause of death in the home for children and young adults. [31]

In 2011, an estimated 484,500 structure fires—370,000 of them residential—occurred in the United States. Overall, fires resulted in 3,005 nonfirefighter deaths, 17,500 injuries, and $11.7 billion in property loss. [32] These figures do not include the estimated 90% of fires not reported to fire departments. More than half of all fatal residential fires started between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am. [31]

The incidence of smoke inhalation increases from less than 10% in patients with a mean total body surface area (TBSA) burn size of 5% to more than 80% in patients with a mean TBSA burn size of 85% or more. Smoke inhalation is present in one third of patients treated at burn centers. The magnitude of smoke inhalation is devastating, as the presence of an inhalation injury has a greater effect on mortality than either patient age or surface area burned.

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