Older Adults and Burns

Kristen Davidge, MD; Joel Fish, MD, MSc, FRCS(C)


Geriatrics and Aging. 2008;11(5):270-275. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Burn injury among older adults will result in significant morbidity and mortality despite the many advances in burn treatment. Many adult burn units in North America admit and treat a significant number of older adults so understanding the issues and problems specific to this age group is important. Older adults experience specific problems with wound care, and if the injury is large, they will require critical care interventions during the course of treatment. Despite the advances in wound care and critical care that have occurred, the mortality rates of older adults with burn injuries remain quite high. This article reviews the literature on specific issues for older adults that need to be considered when treating older adults with burn injury.


Older adults are at high risk for thermal injury[1,2,3,4,5,6] and experience significant burn-related morbidity and mortality.[7,8,9] Burns and other fire-related injuries are currently the second-leading cause of death from home accidents among older adults.[10] While advances in resuscitation and burn care strategies have improved the survivability of thermal injuries in all age groups,[9,11] older adults have generally experienced a less marked decline in mortality over time relative to younger adults.[5,7,12,13,14,15] More recently, modifications in burn care have had a more significant impact on survival in this population and have raised new concerns regarding rehabilitation and quality of life among older survivors of burn injury.[16] With the steady growth of the older adult population in Western countries, issues surrounding burn prevention and treatment among older individuals have become of paramount importance.[8,12,17,18,19,20]


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