In order to assess the specific effects of inhalation injury and pneumonia on mortality in burn patients, the records of 1058 patients treated at a single institution over a five-year period, 1980-1984, were reviewed. Of these patients, 373 (35%) had inhalation injury diagnosed by bronchoscopy and/or ventilation perfusion lung scan. Of the 373 patients, 141 (38%) had subsequent pneumonia. Among the patients without inhalation injury, pneumonia occurred in 60 of 685 (8.8%). A multiple logistic equation was developed to estimate expected mortality at any age and burn size for patients without either inhalation injury or pneumonia, with either alone, or with both. Subtraction of the expected mortality without either inhalation injury or pneumonia from the expected mortality in the presence of either or both permitted the estimation of additional mortality attributable to these complications. Inhalation injury alone increased mortality by a maximum of 20% and pneumonia by a maximum of 40%, with a maximum increase of approximately 60% when both were present. The influence on mortality was maximal in the midrange of expected mortality without these complications for any age group. These data indicate that inhalation injury and pneumonia have significant, independent, additive effects on burn mortality and that these effects vary with age and burn size in a predictable manner.
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