Comparison of premortem clinical diagnosis and autopsy findings in patients with burns

Burns. 2008 Aug;34(5):595-602. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2007.12.010. Epub 2008 Apr 18.


Introduction: Despite the diagnostic advancements, some clinically important diagnoses remain undetected during intensive care in burn patients. The aim of this study was to compare the premortem clinical diagnoses and autopsy findings.

Patients and methods: A retrospective review of all burn deaths during 1995-2005 was conducted. The clinical diagnoses and autopsy reports were reviewed, and diagnostic discrepancies were classified into four categories, according to the impact on the treatment.

Results: Overall mortality during the study period was 5.4%. Altogether 74 deaths were recorded, of which 71 were included in the study. Typical patient was a 58-year-old male with flame burn of %TBSA 49, ABSI 10. Clinical diagnostic discrepancies were found in 14.1% of the patients; one diagnostic discrepancy was recorded in each of the patients. Of these diagnostic discrepancies, 8.5% were considered major, and 5.6% would have altered the clinical outcome or therapy, if known at the time. Diagnostic discrepancies consisted of one cardiovascular, seven respiratory and two gastrointestinal missed diagnosis. The most common missed diagnosis was pneumonia.

Conclusion: This study emphasizes the usefulness of autopsies to provide valuable clinical data for the treatment of burn patients. It also highlights the few missed diagnoses which may occur in burn patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abbreviated Injury Scale
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autopsy
  • Burn Units
  • Burns / complications*
  • Burns / pathology
  • Burns / therapy
  • Diagnostic Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pneumonia / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care
  • Young Adult