Introduction: Patients who sustain burn injuries are frequently transferred to regional burn centers. Severely injured patients, unlikely to survive, may be transported far from home and family to die shortly after arrival. An examination of early deaths, those that happen within a week of transfer, may offer an opportunity to revise the way we think about critical burns and consider the best way to provide regional care.
Methods: This is a focused review of burn patients who survived ≤1 week after transfer to a regional center from 2013-2017. Originating location data such as city, state, population at origin were obtained. Transfer data, including mode of transport and distance traveled, as well as patient characteristics, Total Body Surface Area (TBSA) burned, inhalation injury, medical history with calculation of revised-Baux (r-Baux) score were analyzed.
Results: 25 patients (1.2%) met inclusion criteria. Patients were transferred from a wide geographic area with population ranges of 1000 to 279,000. 21 patients met criteria for burn resuscitation by TBSA; 4 (19%) were placed on comfort care upon arrival, 7 (33%) were placed on comfort care after discussion with the patient's family, and 10 (48%) received full resuscitation efforts. Of these 10 patients, 2 died as "full code", 8 were transitioned to comfort care after failed resuscitation or other events. Code status was not always addressed prior to the decision to transfer. Two patients were transferred after cardiac arrest in the field both of which had significant medical comorbidities in addition to their burn.
Conclusions: Regional burn centers support a variety of populations. Transferring patients for which care is futile may have a profound impact on resource utilization from a variety of perspectives including transferring centers, receiving centers, regional Emergency Medical Services and families. Referring providers need to be supported in identifying these severely injured, potentially expectant patients. Transfer of patients may negatively impact families as a loved one may die far from home, before family can arrive. With our increasing ability to utilize telemedicine, transfer may not always provide the best support we can offer for providers, patients, and families.
Applicability of research to practice: Early deaths after transfer to a regional burn center, especially those that do not undergo a full resuscitation, should be critically examined to determine the appropriateness of transfer in a palliative, patient and family centered approach.
Keywords: Burn center; Comfort care; Early deaths; Transfer.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.