Burn injury in dementia patients: causes, effects and outcomes

Dr Eoin Minnock1, Miss Yael Friedland1, Dr Helen Douglas1, Professor Suzanne Rea1, Professor Fiona Wood1

1State Burns Service WA


In our aging population, the impact of dementia and related illnesses is set to increase with cases of dementia predicted to treble by 2050. Little is known about the impact of dementia on the burns population in terms of predictors, burn injury characteristics and global outcomes.


Seven years of data was retrospectively reviewed from electronic case-notes, examining patients with pre-existing dementia diagnoses and those diagnosed with dementia during their treatment at the burns unit.


24 burns patients with dementia were identified with a median age of 79 (range 74-84y) and mean TBSA of burn 4%. The most common mechanism was contact burn and 92% of burn injuries occurred at the patient’s residence. 75% of patients did not receive appropriate first aid; 17% of burns were full-thickness with the remaining 83% partial-thickness. Over a third of patients did not return to their homes upon discharge and 40% of those living at home prior to injury required new or increased levels of residential care services.


Previous studies regarding dementia in burns patients have identified increased mortality, full-thickness injuries and a longer stay in hospital. Our findings support this, but also reveal poorer pre-hospital first aid, altered functional outcomes post-injury and loss of independence.

Whether the burn injury is the cause or effect of deteriorating function in dementia patients or a predictor of failing coping mechanisms for these patients and their carers, their contact with the burns unit provides an opportunity for intervention which can assist and provide support.

Yael Friedland is a medical student at the University of Western Australia who did a selective rotation at the state burns service in WA

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