Sensory over-responsiveness in burn-injured patients: a cross-sectional study and secondary analysis

Mrs Erin Crofton1,2, Emeritus Professor Jenny Strong1,2, Doctor Pamela Meredith3, Associate Professor Paul Gray1,2

1The University of Queensland , Brisbane , Australia, 2The Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Brisbane , Australia, 3University of the Sunshine Coast , Sunshine Coast , Australia


Introduction: Consensus exists that sensory changes resulting from a burn-injury can significantly impact the individual. There has, however, been no discussion of the impact of an individual’s trait-like sensory processing abilities. Individuals process sensory information differently, and these differences can result in variable tolerances to sensory input. Active avoidance of benign sensations is termed “sensory over-responsiveness”. The aim of this study is to investigate whether sensory over-responsive patterns of behaviour are associated with adherence to compression garment wear, and how these patterns of behaviour in a burn sample compare to normative data.

Methods: Patients (n=117) attending a quaternary adult burns clinic completed three quantitative sensory tests, a self-reported adherence measure, and a sensory profile questionnaire.

Results: Patients who reported a lower pain threshold, lower threshold for light-touch, or higher acuity for two-point discrimination were less adherent with garment wear. Garment non-adherence was more likely for individuals who had higher than average sensory over-responsive patterns of sensory processing, and lower thresholds for mechanical detection. To provide scale to these findings, a secondary analysis of the data revealed that burn-injured patients were more likely to exhibit sensory over-responsivity and to have lower detection thresholds for touch and pain compared to normative data.

Conclusion: Patients were more likely to demonstrate sensory over-responsive thresholds that can result in active avoidance from sensory input compared to normative data. The sensory over-responsiveness was associated with compression garment non-adherence. These findings warrant consideration of potential treatment strategies.


Erin Crofton is a Team Leader at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, having worked with patients post-burn at the RBWH and the Cairns Hospital. She is completing her PhD through the University of Queensland that is investigating sensory over-responsiveness and adherence to compression garment wear in adults post-burn. She has a significant interest in scar and wound management, and is currently a member of the Wounds Australia Expert Advisory Panel, and represents Wounds Australia on the NHMRC’s “Wiser Wounds” Expert Advisory Panel.

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