An evaluation of self-inflicted burns since COVID-19 pandemic

Dr Sarah Huang1, Dr  Aruna Wijewardena1, Dr Rowan Gillies1, Dr Jeon Cha1

1Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards, Australia



Self-inflicted burns often have complex psychosocial and psychiatric backgrounds. Recent studies have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected mental health outcomes, due to limited access to appropriate mental health and psychiatric services. This study examines recurrent presentations and severity of self-inflicted burns to optimise management strategies for patients during this global health crisis.


A retrospective analysis of patients with self-inflicted burns were identified from the NSW Severe Burn Injury Service database. Data from 2020 (after the beginning of the pandemic), was analysed and compared to data from the preceding 5 years (2015-2019).


Almost double the amount of self-inflicted burn presentations were recorded in 2020 (n=35 vs 15; p=0.029) compared to the average in 2015-2019. The 2020 cohort also presented more frequently to the burns outpatient clinic (mean=6.04 vs 4.04, p=0.043) and required more debridement and grafting operations (mean=5.94 vs 2.58, p<0.07) compared to 2015-2019. There was an increase in total body surface area (TBSA) (8.36% to 14.05%) but no increase in rate of deep dermal and full thickness burns.


Self-inflicted burn presentations, and representations have become more common and extensive since the COVID-19 pandemic, utilising greater resources in outpatient clinics and inpatient operations. An ongoing coordinated effort by multidisciplinary teams with ongoing follow up is paramount to our management strategy going forward, in order to support our limited resources.


Dr Sarah Huang is a  Resident Medical Officer at Royal North Shore Hospital with a special interest in Burns and Plastic Surgery. She is currently completing a Masters of Surgery with thesis at University of Sydney in the Plastic Surgery stream.

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