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A Comprehensive Guide to Burn Management and Fluid Resuscitation

Updated: Mar 6


Discover essential insights into burn care through 'Balancing Flames,' your ultimate guide to first, second, and third-degree burn management. Learn when to seek hospital care and how the 'rule of nines' aids in treatment planning for both pediatric and adult patients.

When discussing burn management and hospital admission criteria, it's essential to categorize burns based on their severity and understand the specific considerations for each. Here's a structured approach to teaching about first, second, and third-degree burns, including when to consider hospital admission and how the "rule of nines" is applied in assessing burn extent.

Burn Degree

Characteristics

Management

Admission Criteria

First-degree (Superficial Burns)

Affects epidermis, causing redness, slight swelling, and pain. No blisters.

Cool water, aloe vera, or OTC pain relievers. Keep clean.

Children: >30% BSA. Adults: >50% BSA involves critical areas or circumferential.

Second-degree (Partial Thickness Burns)

Involves epidermis and part of dermis. Redness, swelling, blistering, severe pain.

Wound cleaning, debridement, dressing changes, pain management.

Children: >10% BSA. Adults: >10-20% BSA, involves critical areas or circumferential.

Third-degree (Full Thickness Burns)

Extends through dermis, affecting deeper tissues. White, brown, or charred appearance; numb.

Requires medical treatment: skin grafting, wound care, rehabilitation.

Necessary for all cases, regardless of size, due to severity and risk of complications.

First-degree Burns (Superficial Burns)

  • Characteristics: Affect the epidermis (outermost skin layer), causing redness, slight swelling, and pain. They do not form blisters and usually heal within 7 to 10 days without scarring.

  • Management: This can often be managed at home with cool water, aloe vera, or over-the-counter pain relievers. Keep the area clean to prevent infection.

  • Admission Criteria: Rarely requires admission unless significant body area involved or located on face/hands.

  • For children, burns covering more than 30% of the body surface area (BSA)

  • For adults, the threshold may be higher, but burns exceeding 50% BSA

Second-degree burns (Partial Thickness Burns)

  • Characteristics: Involve the epidermis and part of the dermis. Symptoms include redness, swelling, blistering, and severe pain. They may take weeks to heal and can scar.

  • Management: Requires more intensive care, including wound cleaning, possibly debridement (removal of dead tissue), and dressing changes to prevent infection and promote healing. Pain management is also crucial.

  • Admission Criteria:

  • For children, burns covering more than 10% of the body surface area (BSA) often require admission for pain management and wound care.

  • For adults, the threshold may be higher, but burns exceeding 10-20% BSA, those that involve the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or a major joint, or are circumferential, typically necessitate inpatient care.

Third-degree burns (Full Thickness Burns)

  • Characteristics: Extend through the dermis and affect deeper tissues. They can appear white, brown, or charred, and the area may be numb due to nerve damage.

  • Management: Always require professional medical treatment. Management may include surgical intervention such as skin grafting, along with long-term wound care and rehabilitation to maximize function and appearance.

  • Admission Criteria: Hospitalization is necessary for all third-degree burns regardless of size, due to the severity and complications associated with these injuries, including infection risk, fluid loss, and the need for surgical intervention.

Rule of Nines

The "rule of nines" is used to estimate the total BSA affected by burns, which is crucial for determining treatment plans, including fluid resuscitation needs. The adult body is divided into sections, each accounting for approximately 9% of the total body area:

Body Area

Adult

Each Arm

9%

Each Leg

18% (9% each front and back)

Torso

36% (18% each front and back)

Head

9%

Groin

1%

  • Each arm: 9%,

  • Each leg: 18% (front and back 9% each),

  • The torso: 36% (front and back 18% each),

  • The head: 9%,

  • The groin: 1%.

For children, the BSA percentages are adjusted to account for their proportionally larger head and smaller legs.

Initial Management for Burn Patients

Intervention

Details

Fluid Resuscitation

Ringer's Lactate Solution (RLS) peripherally; Parkland formula for calculations

Monitoring

Foley catheter for urine output; pre-transfer continuous monitoring

Gastrointestinal Care

NG tube for burns >25% BSA to prevent paralytic ileus

Pain and Anxiety

IV analgesics and sedatives

Temperature Regulation

Keep the patient warm to prevent hypothermia

  • Fluid Resuscitation: Crucial to prevent shock and ensure adequate circulation. Ringer's Lactate Solution (RLS) is commonly used, administered peripherally.

  • Monitoring: Before transfer, ensure continuous monitoring, including the use of a Foley catheter to measure urine output as a hydration status indicator.

  • Gastrointestinal Care: For burns affecting over 25% of body surface area (BSA), a nasogastric (NG) tube is recommended to prevent paralytic ileus.

  • Pain and Anxiety Management: Administer analgesics and sedatives intravenously to manage pain and anxiety.

  • Temperature Regulation: Actively work to prevent hypothermia by keeping the patient warm.

Fluid Resuscitation Protocol

Fluid Type

Protocol

Isotonic Crystalloid

Parkland formula: 4 ml/kg/% burn (1st day), adjust 2nd day based on urine output

Hypertonic Saline

For severe burns; mix 7.5% NaHCO3 50 ml with RLS 1000 ml

Protein

20% Albumin, FFP 0.5-1 ml/kg BW/%burn for severe burns, older patients, or those with inhalation injuries

Non-protein Colloid

Dextran-40, 6% Hetastarch for first 8-12 hrs in shock

  • Isotonic Crystalloid Solutions: The Parkland formula is utilized to calculate the total volume needed in the first 24 hours post-burn:

  • First Day: 4 ml/kg/% burn area (RLS) is the standard calculation. Half of the calculated volume is given in the first 8 hours, and the remaining half over the next 16 hours.

  • Electrical Burns: Increase fluid needs to 4-6 ml/kg/% burn.

  • Children: Add maintenance fluid, typically 5% Dextrose in Normal Saline (5%D/N/3).

  • Second Day: Adjust fluids based on urine output, transitioning to 5%D/N/2 or RLS.

  • Insensible Loss: Calculated as (25+% burn)*BSA in ml/hr.

  • Monitoring Parameters:

  • Urine output: Adults 0.5-1 ml/kg/hr, children 1-2 ml/kg/hr, electrical burns 2-3 ml/kg/hr.

  • Keep the pulse rate <120 bpm, blood pressure >90/60 mmHg.

  • Monitor serial hematocrit (Hct), electrocardiogram (EKG), chest X-ray (CXR), oxygen saturation (O2 Sat.), and lab chemistry for changes.

  • Hypertonic Saline: In severe burns, to increase myocardial contractility and decrease vascular resistance. Mix 7.5% NaHCO3 50 ml with RLS 1000 ml, ensuring serum Na+ remains <160 mEq/L.

  • Protein Supplementation:

  • Indicated for severe burns (>40-50% BSA), older patients, those with inhalation injuries, or underlying cardiopulmonary disease.

  • Begin 8-16 hours post-injury with 20% Albumin and Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP) at 0.5-1 ml/kg BW/%burn.

  • Non-Protein Colloid: Consider Dextran-40 or 6% Hetastarch in the first 8-12 hours for patients in frank shock.

  • Escharotomy: Required for circumferential burns with a restrictive leathery eschar to relieve pressure and improve circulation.



The Holiday-Segar formula is a widely used method for calculating maintenance fluid requirements in children and adults, emphasizing the importance of managing hydration effectively, particularly in medical conditions requiring precise fluid management, such as burns. Here's a brief overview:

Holiday-Segar Method for Calculating Maintenance Fluid Requirements

The formula is based on body weight and provides an estimate of daily fluid needs to maintain normal hydration status in individuals not experiencing acute fluid loss, such as from burns. It is outlined as follows:

  • For the first 10 kg of body weight: 100 mL/kg

  • For the next 10 kg of body weight (11-20 kg): an additional 50 mL/kg

  • For each additional kg over 20 kg: an additional 20 mL/kg

Example Calculation:

  • A child weighing 25 kg would require:

  • 100 mL/kg for the first 10 kg = 1000 mL

  • 50 mL/kg for the next 10 kg = 500 mL

  • 20 mL/kg for the remaining 5 kg = 100 mL

  • Total daily fluid requirement = 1600 mL

Special Note on Burn Patients:

In the context of burn management, the Holiday-Segar formula's maintenance calculation serves as a baseline to which additional fluid needs, dictated by burn severity, are added. This is especially relevant in pediatric burn patients, where fluid management must be meticulously balanced to support recovery without exacerbating complications.

For burn patients, the Parkland formula is typically used to calculate initial fluid resuscitation needs post-burn, adjusting fluid volumes based on the burn's extent (% total body surface area affected) and the patient's response to treatment, evidenced by urine output and vital signs.

Combining the maintenance fluid requirements (calculated using the Holiday-Segar formula) with the acute needs due to burns allows for comprehensive fluid management, addressing both the baseline physiological needs and the increased demands imposed by the injury.

This detailed approach underscores the complexity of fluid management in burn patients and highlights the importance of integrating standard hydration needs with specific care requirements to optimize outcomes.


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