The changing epidemiology of infection in burn patients

Basil A. Pruitt, Albert T. McManus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Topical chemotherapy, prompt excision, and timely closure of the burn wound have significantly reduced the occurrence of invasive burn wound infection and its related mortality. Since wound protection is imperfect and invasive wound infection may still occur in patients with massive burns in whom wound closure is delayed, scheduled wound surveillance and biopsy monitoring are necessary to assess the microbial status of the burn wound and identify wound infections caused by resistant bacteria or non-bacterial opportunists at a stage when therapeutic intervention can control the process. As a reflection of the systemic immunosuppressive effects of burn injury, infection remains the most common cause of morbidity and mortality even though the occurrence of wound infections has been significantly decreased. Pneumonia is the most frequent infection occurring in burn patients today but the improvements in patient management, wound care, and infection control have made bronchopneumonia the most common form of this infection and gram-positive organisms the most common causative agents. The organisms causing bacteremia that exert a species specific effect on the mortality related to extent of burn injury and patient age have changed in concert with changes in wound flora. Infection control procedures, including scheduled surveillance cultures, utilization of cohort patient care methodology, strict enforcement of patient and staff hygiene, and patient monitoring have been effective in eliminating endemic resistant microbial strains, preventing the establishment of newly introduced resistant organisms, diagnosing infection in a timely fashion, instituting antibiotic and other necessary therapy in a prompt manner, and documenting the effectiveness of present day burn patient care and the improved survival of burn patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-67
Number of pages11
JournalWorld journal of surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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