We conducted a Medline search (1966-11/2003) on empirical studies into the consequences of burns. The International Classification of Functioning, disabilities and health (ICF) was used to classify dimensions of functional outcome. We included 50 studies, reporting a wide spectrum of ICF-dimensions. The current state of knowledge on the functional outcome after burns was hard to summarise, due to the wide variety in study designs and outcome assessment methods. Some indications on the major functional problems after burns were gained. Problems in mental function were described in subgroups of patients, both in children/adolescents and adults. Restrictions in range of motion were observed in about one-fifth of burn patients, even 5 years after injury. Problems with appearance were reported often (up to 43%), even in patients with minor burns (14%). Problems with work were reported in 21-50% of the adult patients, with permanent incapacity for work in 1-5%. None of the publications gave sufficient information to fully estimate the functional consequences of burns. We recommend the development of a standard core set for measurement and reporting of functional outcome after burns.