Evidence based review for the treatment of post-burn pruritus

J Burn Care Res. Jan-Feb 2009;30(1):55-61. doi: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e318191fd95.


Pruritus is one of the most common and distressing complications of burns. It is often debilitating and interferes with sleep, activities of daily living and may cause additional tissue damage from scratching. This systematic review classified and ranked 10 trials and one case report for the effective treatment of post-burn pruritus. A literature search was performed using Ovid Medline from 1950 to present, limited to English and used the search terms pruritus, itching, and burns. The studies available were evaluated using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scoring system. Each article was then classified according to the Practice Guidelines for Burn Care 2006, a practice guideline published in the Journal of Burn Care and Research. Ten trials were available and all were accepted for analysis. The evidence was classified class II or class III, meeting criteria for guideline status according to the Practice Guidelines of Burn Care 2006. The best quality study for the pharmacological treatment of post-burn pruritus was selective histamine receptor antagonists. The best quality study for the non-pharmacological treatment of post-burn pruritus was the use of pulse dye laser. A paucity of literature exists for the treatment of post-burn pruritus. Also, in the search for effective treatments of post-burn pruritus, there is not a consistent and detailed instrument of measure available for use. Currently, there is no quality evidence available for the treatment of post-burn pruritus and prospective, randomized controlled trials are needed.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use
  • Burns / complications*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Histamine Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy / methods
  • Massage
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pruritus / etiology*
  • Pruritus / physiopathology
  • Pruritus / therapy*
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Histamine Antagonists