The potential impact of wrong TBSA estimations on fluid resuscitation in patients suffering from burns: things to keep in mind

Burns. 2014 Mar;40(2):241-5. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2013.06.019. Epub 2013 Sep 17.


Introduction: Accurate estimation of burn size is of critical importance, as it is incorporated in every resuscitation formula. The aim of this study was to investigate total burn surface area (TBSA) accuracy among burn specialists, evaluate the potential impact of incorrect evaluation on variations of resultant fluid resuscitation volumes and to discuss future possibilities to estimate or measure TBSA more precisely.

Methods: In a poll during two international burn meetings in 2010 and 2011 demonstrating three pictures of patients with different burn wound patterns and sizes we asked participants to estimate the total surface area burned in percentages. We then calculated resultant fluid volume differences based on established resuscitation formulas.

Results: In the polled 80 participants, the estimations for three patients demonstrated the following differences (DIF=MAX-MIN): for patient 1, 2 and 3 they were 22.5 (25-2.5), 16.5 (20-3.5) and 31.5 (40-8.5) %TBSA, respectively. Based on these differences we calculated the volume differences for patients 1,2 and 3, which were 1080ml (Cincinnati Formula), 5280ml (Parkland Formula) and 2016ml (Cincinnati Formula), respectively.

Conclusions: The analysis showed high deviations of total body surface area among participants, also resulting in large variations of initial fluid resuscitation volumes. One option to address estimation variances is to perform more accurate assessments; also incorporating new technologies aiding to improve the quality of body surface estimations and related decisions.

Keywords: Burn resuscitation; Burn size; Fluid management; Fluid resuscitation; TBSA.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms*
  • Body Surface Area*
  • Burns / diagnosis*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Female
  • Fluid Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male