Characteristics of self-inflicted burn injuries in a major burn centre in New South Wales, Australia

Dr Goltsman David, Dr Masuma Sarker, Prof Peter  Maitz, Mrs Anne Darton, A/Prof Peter Kennedy

1Burns Unit, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, NSW

Aim. To assess the cause, incidence and outcome of self-inflicted burns, and to examine how these factors differed between burns that had a suicidal and non-suicidal intent.


Patients with self-inflicted burn injuries presenting between 2004-2014 were identified from the New South Wales Severe Burn Injury Service database. Demographic and clinical data pertaining to the cause of the burn, treatments received and outcomes were obtained from patient records.


One hundred and thirty nine patients presented with self-inflicted burns.  Burns with suicidal intent (n=77) outnumbered those with non-suicidal intent (n= 62). There was a high incidence of psychiatric illness in both groups (80% in the group with suicidal intention and 75% among those without).  The suicidal group sustained much larger burns (mean burn size 40.35% vs 1.88% in the non-suicidal group, p<0.0001), greater admission rate (100% vs 46.8%, p<0.0001), a higher proportion of ICU admissions (82% vs 1.6%, p<0.001), and a greater mortality (24.6% vs 1.6%, p<0.0001) compared to the self-harm group.


There are two distinct groups of self–inflicted burns which differ in their injury characteristics and outcomes. Psychiatric illness is common among all patients with self-inflicted burn injuries. Better treatment of mental illness may result in less morbidity and mortality among burn victims and may be consequently associated with lower treatment costs.

David Goltsman completed his MBBS at Sydney University, and concurrently completed a PhD with the Concord Burns and Reconstructive Surgery Department. He is currently a General Surgery Registrar at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney.


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