What is the mortality of smoke inhalation injury?

Updated: Oct 15, 2021
  • Author: Keith A Lafferty, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Severe pulmonary injury, edema, and the inability to oxygenate or ventilate can result in death. A study of the characteristics of survivors and casualties of fire fatalities found that the following specific risk factors seem to elevate the rate of mortality [35] :

  • Age: Elderly persons (>64 y) and young children (< 10 y) are the most likely to die as a result of a fire

  • Persons having a physical or cognitive disability have a higher mortality rate than matched controls, as do persons under the influence of alcohol or other drugs; for these vulnerable populations, if a nonvulnerable potential rescuer was present, the fatality rate dropped from 49% to 39%

  • The absence of a functioning smoke detector increases the risk of death in a fire by about 60%

The combination of cutaneous burn and smoke inhalation results in far higher mortality rates than occur with either injury in isolation. In patients with a burn and no associated smoke inhalation or respiratory failure, the mortality rate is less than 2%. In patients with smoke inhalation alone and no burn or respiratory failure, the mortality rate is 7%. For patients with both a burn and smoke inhalation, the mortality rate increases to 29%, suggesting that the burn wounds themselves put an additional stress on the compromised lung. [36]

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