Epidemiology and impact of scarring after burn injury: a systematic review of the literature

J Burn Care Res. 2012 Jan-Feb;33(1):136-46. doi: 10.1097/BCR.0b013e3182374452.


The purpose of this study was to perform a systematic review of the existing literature on the incidence of hypertrophic scarring and the psychosocial impact of burn scars. In a comprehensive literature review, the authors identified 48 articles published since 1965 and written in English which reported the incidence and risk factors for hypertrophic scarring or assessed outcomes related to scarring. Most studies had important methodological limitations limiting the generalizability of the findings. In particular, the absence of standardized valid measures of scarring and other outcome variables was a major barrier to drawing strong conclusions. Among studies on hypertrophic scarring, the prevalence rate varied between 32 and 72%. Identified risk factors included dark skin, female gender, young age, burn site on neck and upper limb, multiple surgical procedures, meshed skin graph, time to healing, and burn severity. With regard to psychosocial outcomes, two studies compared pediatric burn survivors with a nonburn comparison group on a body image measure; neither study found differences between groups. Across studies, burn severity and location had a modest relationship with psychosocial outcome variables. Psychosocial variables such as social comfort and perceived stigmatization were more highly associated with body image than burn characteristics. To advance our knowledge of the epidemiology of scars and the burden of scars, future studies need to implement more rigorous methodologies. In particular, standardized valid measures of scarring and other outcomes should be developed. This process could be facilitated by an international collaboration among burn centers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Age Distribution
  • Body Image*
  • Burns / complications*
  • Burns / diagnosis
  • Burns / therapy
  • Cicatrix, Hypertrophic / epidemiology*
  • Cicatrix, Hypertrophic / etiology*
  • Cicatrix, Hypertrophic / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Quality of Life*
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Adjustment