Background: Quality of life is a major criterion when decisions regarding resuscitation, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of patients with massive burn injuries are being considered. There has been little research focusing on quality of life following burn injuries involving more than 50 percent total body surface area in the adult population. The authors' goals were to describe quality of life and identify specific clinical and functional indices that predict good quality of life following massive burn injuries.
Methods: Using a prospective study design, 47 patients who survived a massive burn between 1980 and 2001 were recruited from a single burn unit. Clinical data were collected from hospital records, function was assessed using the Abbreviated Burn-Specific Health Scale, and quality of life was assessed using the Short Form-36 survey. The Short Form-36 scores were compared with population norms. Univariate and multivariate regression analyses were used to identify factors predicting Short Form-36 scores.
Results: Overall, the mean age was 28 +/- 1.8 years, 96 percent (45 of 47) were men, and the mean burn size was 64 +/- 2.1 percent total body surface area. Compared with Canadian population norms, burn patients had significantly lower Short Form-36 scores in the domains of role physical (69.1 versus 82.1, p = 0.0067) and general health perception (67.2 versus 77.0, p = 0.00014). At the time of injury, the amount of total full-thickness burn predicted follow-up Short Form-36 physical summary scores (R2 = 15 percent, p < 0.001). At the time of follow-up, addition of the patient's hand function significantly contributed to the prediction of Short Form-36 physical summary scores (R2 = 44 percent, p < 0.001). At the time of injury, the age of the patient predicted follow-up Short Form-36 mental summary scores (R2 = 25 percent, p < 0.001). At the time of follow-up, addition of the patient's perceived level of social support significantly contributed to the prediction of Short Form-36 mental summary scores (R2 = 44 percent, p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Survivors of massive burn injury reported a good quality of life in most Short Form-36 domains. The authors identified the size of the total full-thickness injury and the age of the patient as factors available at the time of injury that predict quality of life. The addition of hand function and the patient's perceived level of social support at the time of follow-up improved prediction of quality of life. Accordingly, this information on quality of life after massive burn injury could aid in decision making at the time of resuscitation, reconstruction, and rehabilitation.