Burns in octogenarians

South Med J. 1991 Nov;84(11):1316-9. doi: 10.1097/00007611-199111000-00006.


Trauma is the fifth leading cause of death for the elderly. Approximately 7.4 million (3% of the population) are more than 80 years old (the so-called "old" old). More than 40% of Americans will reach the age of 80 years, and those who do can expect to live an average of 8 years more. The advanced elderly burn victim creates special demands because of a greater morbidity and mortality associated with a smaller body surface area burn. From September 1982 through August 1990, there were 29 patients 80 years old or older treated at our burn center. The mean age was 83 years, and 72% of the patients were women. The most common preexisting medical problems were hypertension and diabetes. Seventeen (59%) survived. The mean percentage of body surface area (BSA) burned was 6% among the survivors, with a mean length of hospital stay of 24 days. The mean BSA burned was 32% among those who died, with a mean stay of 17 days. Five of the 12 deaths were due to burns of less than 20% BSA, below the standard commonly used to define a "major" burn. The abbreviated burn severity index (ABSI) was a good indicator of survival. Eleven of 12 with an ABSI of 7 or less survived, and nine of 11 with an ABSI of 9 or more died. Twelve patients had operation; seven survived. Of the 15 survivors living independently before the injury, 11 were discharged home and four were transferred to nursing facilities. In this age group, even small burns can be problems, and indications for hospital admission should be broadened. The advanced elderly also cause financial burdens to burn centers because of inadequate diagnosis-related group (DRG) reimbursement. For those surviving, there is a good chance for maintaining independent function and for being discharged home.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Burns / complications
  • Burns / mortality*
  • Burns / surgery
  • Burns, Inhalation / mortality
  • Diabetes Complications
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome