Surgical burn wound infections and their clinical implications

Joseph A. Posluszny, Peggie Conrad, Marcia Halerz, Ravi Shankar, Richard L. Gamelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Typically, burn wound infections are classified by the organisms present in the wound within the first several days after injury or later by routine surveillance cultures. With universal acceptance of early excision and grafting, classification of burn wound colonization in unexcised burn wounds is less relevant, shifting clinical significance to open burn-related surgical wound infections (SWIs). To better characterize SWIs and their clinical relevance, the authors identified the pathogens responsible for SWIs, their impact on rates of regrafting, and the relationship between SWI and nosocomial infection (NI) pathogens. Epidemiologic and clinical data for 71 adult patients with 20% TBSA burn were collected. After excision and grafting, if a grafted site had clinical characteristics of infection, a wound culture swab was obtained and the organism identified. Surveillance cultures were not obtained. SWI pathogen, anatomic location, postburn day of occurrence, and need for regrafting were compiled. A positive culture obtained from an isolated anatomic location at any time point after excision and grafting of that location was considered a distinct infection. Pathogens responsible for NIs (urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bloodstream and catheter-related bloodstream infections, pseudomembranous colitis, and donor site infections) and their postburn day were identified. The profiles of SWI pathogens and NI pathogens were then compared. Of the 71 patients included, 2 withdrew, 6 had no excision or grafting performed, and 1 had incomplete data. Of the remaining 62 patients, 24 (39%) developed an SWI. In these 24 patients, 70 distinct infections were identified, of which 46% required regrafting. Candida species (24%), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (22%), Serratia marcescens (11%), and Staphylococcus aureus (11%) comprised the majority of pathogens. Development of an SWI with the need for regrafting increased overall length of stay, area of autograft, number of operative events, and was closely associated with the number of NIs. The %TBSA burn and depth of the burn were the main risk factors for SWI with need for regrafting. The SWI pathogen was identified as an NI pathogen 56% of the time, with no temporal correlation between shared SWI and NI pathogens. SWIs are commonly found in severely burned patients and are associated with regrafting. As a result, patients with SWIs are subjected to increased operative events, autograft placement, and increased length of hospitalization. In addition, the presence of an SWI may be a risk factor for development of NIs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-333
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Burn Care and Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine


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