A systematic review of objective burn scar measurements

Burns Trauma. 2016 Apr 27;4:14. doi: 10.1186/s41038-016-0036-x. eCollection 2016.


Background: Problematic scarring remains a challenging aspect to address in the treatment of burns and can significantly affect the quality of life of the burn survivor. At present, there are few treatments available in the clinic to control adverse scarring, but experimental pharmacological anti-scarring strategies are now beginning to emerge. Their comparative success must be based on objective measurements of scarring, yet currently the clinical assessment of scars is not carried out systematically and is mostly based on subjective review of patients. However, several techniques and devices are being introduced that allow objective analysis of the burn scar. The aim of this article is to evaluate various objective measurement tools currently available and recommend a useful panel that is suitable for use in clinical trials of anti-scarring therapies.

Methods: A systematic literature search was done using the Web of Science, PubMed and Cochrane databases. The identified devices were then classified and grouped according to the parameters they measured. The tools were then compared and assessed in terms of inter- and intra-rater reproducibility, ease of use and cost.

Results: After duplicates were removed, 5062 articles were obtained in the search. After further screening, 157 articles which utilised objective burn scar measurement systems or tools were obtained. The scar measurement devices can be broadly classified into those measuring colour, metric variables, texture, biomechanical properties and pathophysiological disturbances.

Conclusions: Objective scar measurement tools allow the accurate and reproducible evaluation of scars, which is important for both clinical and scientific use. However, studies to evaluate their relative performance and merits of these tools are scarce, and there remain factors, such as itch and pain, which cannot be measured objectively. On reviewing the available evidence, a panel of devices for objective scar measurement is recommended consisting of the 3D cameras (Eykona/Lifeviz/Vectra H1) for surface area and volume, DSM II colorimeter for colour, Dermascan high-frequency ultrasound for scar thickness and Cutometer for skin elasticity and pliability.

Keywords: 3D camera; Burn; Colorimeter; Cutometer; High-frequency ultrasound image; Laser imaging; Objective measurement; Scar measurement.

Publication types

  • Review