Discrepancy in Initial Pediatric Burn Estimates and Its Impact on Fluid Resuscitation

J Burn Care Res. 2015 Sep-Oct;36(5):574-9. doi: 10.1097/BCR.0000000000000185.


One of the fundamental aspects of initial burn care is the ability to accurately measure the TBSA of injured tissue. Discrepancies between initial estimates of burn size and actual TBSA (determined at the burn unit) have long been reported. These inconsistencies have the potential for unnecessary patient transfer and inappropriate fluid administration which may result in morbidity. In an effort to study these inconsistencies and their impact on initial care, we evaluated the differences between initial TBSA estimates and its impact on fluid resuscitation at an American Burn Association-verified pediatric burn center. A prospective observational study of 50 consecutive burn patients admitted to Shriner's Hospital for Children in Boston, Massachusetts, between October 2011 and April 2012 was performed. Data collected included age, mechanism of burn injury, type of referral center, referring hospital TBSA, and volume of fluid administration as well as admission TBSA and volume of fluid administration. Determination of over or under resuscitation was based on comparing the amount of fluids received at the referral center to that received at the pediatric burn center. A total of 50 patients were admitted during the 7-month study period. The average age was 4.1 years old (25 days-16 years) and the average TBSA was 2.5% (0.25-55%). There were significant differences in the TBSA calculations between referring centers and the pediatric burn center. Overestimation of scald and contact burn size (P < .05) was noted with no difference in flame burn size estimation. Community referrals were more likely than tertiary centers to overestimate TBSA (P < .05 vs P = .29). Overall, 59% of study patients were administered more fluid at the referring hospital than would have been expected by the burn size calculated at our facility. Inconsistencies with the estimation of TBSA burn between referring hospitals and tertiary referral centers remains a problem in pediatric patients and may lead to inappropriate resuscitation. This study highlights the continued need for educational outreach programs and for the provision of novel resources to initial burn providers. Additional support through online resources (eg, Lund-Browder diagram) and remotely assisting providers during their TBSA measurements are potential options which may help to improve the initial care of burn patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Surface Potential Mapping
  • Burn Units
  • Burns / diagnosis*
  • Burns / mortality
  • Burns / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Fluid Therapy / methods*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Pediatrics
  • Physical Examination / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Resuscitation / methods*
  • Resuscitation / mortality
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome