Small burn, big problem: Penile burns presenting to an adult burns service

Jeremy M Rawlins

State Adult Burns Service, Fiona Stanley Hospital, Murdoch WA 6150,


Whilst the perineum represents just 1% of the body surface area (BSA), the seriousness of a burn to the penis and scrotum should not be underestimated.  Important physical, physiological, sensual and sexual function can be significantly compromised following burn injury to the male genitalia.  An understanding of the epidemiology and outcomes following these injuries is an important part of managing these injuries and optimising outcomes.


A retrospective review was made of our clinical databases for all male patients with perineal burns referred to the burns service between 2011 and 2016.


32 male patients were identified from our databases with burns to their genitalia / perineum.  Of these, 20 patients had burns that were confined to their genitalia only, and these patients were studied further.  Patient ages ranged from 19 – 85 years, with an average of 51 years.  Burn agents included hot water (9), chemicals (4), Molten plastic / metal (3), Cold injury (2), hot food (1), and Radiation (1).  Two injuries were iatrogenic.  The majority of patients healed with dressings alone, however 2 patients required surgery to close their burn injuries.  Follow-up review of these patients was difficult to track.


Despite the burn injury being small with regards to BSA, penile and scrotal injuries can be embarrassing and can result in short and longterm functional sequelae.  Medical practitioners and burn services should be aware of these injuries and be alert to the problems they can cause.

Key Words

Penis, Perineum, Burn


Jeremy Rawlins is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon at the State Adult Burn Service at Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth, Western Australia.  He has an interest in acute and reconstructive burns surgery, scar revision, plastic surgery trauma and reconstructive microsurgery.

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