Objectives: To determine the number of patients attending an Emergency Department with burns and to establish the epidemiology, management and outcome of these cases.
Method: A retrospective study of all patients attending an Emergency Department with a diagnosis of "burn" during 2004.
Results: Seven hundred and eighty-five patients presented with a diagnosis of burns, accounting for 1% of all attendances. Fifty-three percent of patients were male and most were young adults of working age. Scalds and flame injuries were the most common causes of injury. Only 30% of patients performed adequate first aid. The majority of burns were small and did not require admission to hospital. Assessment and documentation by the Emergency Department staff was found to be generally poor and this may reflect a lack of experience in managing burns.
Conclusion: Burns remain a relatively uncommon presenting complaint in the Emergency Department, even in a hospital accepting tertiary referrals. Most injuries are minor and are managed within the department. This study suggests that there is a role for better education of less experienced staff in the management of burns. There remains a need for public education in the prevention and first aid of burns.