Pre-burn center management of the burned airway: Do we know enough?

Alexander Eastman, Brett D Arnoldo, John L. Hunt, Gary F. Purdue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Despite the traditional teaching of early and aggressive airway management in thermally injured patients, paramedics and medical providers outside of burn centers receive little formal training in this difficult skill set. However, the initial airway management of these patients is often performed by these preburn center providers (PBCPs). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the authors' experience with patients intubated by PBCPs and subsequently managed at the authors' center. A retrospective review of a level I burn center database was undertaken. All records of patients arriving intubated were reviewed. From January 1982 to June 2005, 11,143 patients were admitted to the regional burn center; 11.4% (n = 1,272) were intubated before arrival. In this group, mean age was 37.1 years, mean burn size was 35.3% TBSA, and mean length of hospital stay was 27.0 days. Approximately 26.3% were suspected of having an inhalation injury, and this was confirmed by either bronchoscopy or clinical course in 88.6% of this subgroup. Mortality in patients arriving intubated was 30.8%, and these were excluded from the rest of the analysis. In the surviving 879 intubated patients, reasons reported by PBCPs for intubation included "airway swelling" in 34.1%, "prophylaxis" in 27.9%, and "ventilation or oxygenation needs" in 13.2%. Of these patients, 16.3% arrived directly from the scene, with the remainder arriving from another hospital facility. Of all survivors who arrived intubated, 11.9% were extubated on the day of admission, 21.3% were extubated on the first postburn day (PBD), and 8.2% were extubated on the second PBD. No patients who were extubated on PBD1 or PBD2 had to be reintubated. A significant number of burn patients have their initial airway management by PBCPs. Of these, a significant number are extubated soon after arrival at the burn center without adverse sequelae. Rationale for their initial intubation varies, but education is warranted in the prehospital community to reduce unnecessary intubation of the burn patient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-705
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Burn Care and Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Rehabilitation


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