Context: Major advances in treatment of burn injuries in the last 20 years have made it possible to save the lives of children with massive burns, but whether their survival comes at the cost of impaired quality of life is unknown.
Objective: To investigate the long-term quality of life in children who have survived massive burns.
Design and setting: Retrospective, cross-sectional study conducted in a regional pediatric burn center.
Patients: Eighty subjects who were younger than 18 years at the time of injury, who survived massive burns involving > or =70% of the body surface, and who were admitted to the burn center between 1969 and 1992 were evaluated an average (SD) of 14.7 (6.0) years after injury.
Main outcome measures: Short Form 36 (SF-36) scores of the 60 patients aged at least 14 years were compared with national norms and the impact of clinical variables on individual domain scores was assessed.
Results: The SF-36 domain scores of the study patients, who had survived massive burns at a mean (SD) age of 8.8 (5.5) years, were generally similar to the normal population). However, 15% and 20% of the burn patients had scores in the physical functioning and physical role domains, respectively, that were more than 2 SDs below the relevant norm, indicating that a few patients had continuing serious physical disability. Better functional status of the family predicted a higher score in physical role (P = .04). The child's early reintegration with preburn activities predicted higher scores in general health (P = .03), physical functioning (P = .003), and physical role (P = .01). Children followed up consistently in the multidisciplinary burn clinic for 2 years had higher physical functioning (P = .04).
Conclusions: In this study, while some children surviving severe burns had lingering physical disability, most had a satisfying quality of life. Comprehensive burn care that included experienced multidisciplinary aftercare played an important role in recovery.