Contractures in burn injury: Defining the problem

Jeffrey C. Schneider, Radha Holavanahalli, Phala Helm, Richard Goldstein, Karen Kowalske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

180 Scopus citations


This study prospectively examined the incidence and severity of large joint contractures after burn injury and determined predictors of contracture development. Data were collected prospectively from 1993 to 2002 for consecutive adult burn survivors admitted to a regional burn center. Demographic and medical data were collected on each subject. The primary outcome measures included the presence of contractures, number of contractures per patient, and severity of contractures at each of four joints (shoulder, elbow, hip, knee) at time of hospital discharge. Logistic regression analysis was performed to determine predictors of the presence and severity of contractures and a negative binomial regression was performed to determine predictors of the number of contractures. Of the 985 study patients, 381 (38.7%) developed at least one contracture at hospital discharge. Among those with at least one contracture, the mean is three contractures per person. The shoulder was the most frequently contracted joint (38%), followed by the elbow (34%) and knee (22%). Most contractures were mild (60%) or moderate (32%) in severity. Statistically significant predictors of contracture development were length of stay (P < .005) and extent of burn (P = .033) and graft (P < .005). Predictors of the severity of contracture include graft size (P < .005), amputation (P = .034), and inhalation injury (P = .036). More than one third of the patients with a major burn injury developed a contracture at hospital discharge, which highlights the importance of therapeutic positioning and intensive therapy intervention during acute hospitalization. Furthermore, this challenges the burn care community to find new and better ways of preventing contractures after burn injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-514
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Burn Care and Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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