Burn injury as a result of interpersonal violence in the Northern Territory Top End

Lisa Murphy1, Mr David Read2, Margaret Brennan3

1 Royal Darwin Hospital; c/o Royal Darwin Hospital, 105 Rocklands Drive, Tiwi, NT, 0810;  Lisa.Murphy@nt.gov.au
2 National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre; c/o NCCTRC, level 8 RDH, 105 Rocklands Drive, Tiwi, NT, 0810; DavidJ.Read@nt.gov.au
3 Royal Darwin Hospital; c/o Royal Darwin Hospital, 105 Rocklands Drive, Tiwi, NT, 0810; Margaret.Brennan@nt.gov.au

BACKROUND: Rates of interpersonal violence (IPV) are high in the Northern Territory and burns due to IPV constitute 7.4% of admissions to the RDH Burns Service. This study has two aims, firstly to describes the demographics, circumstances, burn would characteristics of the victims of burn IPV, and secondly to assess the adequacy of care for this at risk population.

METHODS: Retrospective database analysis of all burn injury meeting BRANZ inclusion criteria from 2010-2015 with intent recorded as ‘assault’, ‘suspected maltreatment by partner’. Children (<16yo) and deliberate self-harm were excluded. Case notes were reviewed for quality of care indicators.

RESULTS: Fifty-three patients met inclusion criteria. Burn victims from IPV were more likely to be female (52% IPV vs. 25% others), and Indigenous (83% vs. 21%). Alcohol was involved in half. Approximately half (52.8%) of IPV were classified as family violence. Scalding was the most common mechanism in family violence, and flame +/- accelerant the most common in non-family IPV. Mean burns size was 5.7% (R 1-35%).

A total of 20 (37.6%) patients had incomplete burn wound care defined as either self-discharge or non-attendance for follow up. Social support was documented in around two thirds (60.4% social work input, 67.9% family violence referral, 70.5% Indigenous Liaison Officer support) as appropriate.

CONCLUSIONS: Burns from IPV constitute a significant proportion of the workload of the RDH Burns Service with high rate of incomplete burn wound treatment, particularly in Indigenous persons. Increased resources and efforts will be required to engage the victims of IPV burns to improve outcomes in this vulnerable group.

Key Words

Burn assault; Interpersonal violence; Family violence; Domestic violence; Northern Territory; Top End

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