Effective management of post-burn itch to produce better physical and psychological outcomes. A Systematic Review

Miss Siobhan Connolly1, Mr Paul McLeish2

1ACI Statewide Burn Injury Service, St Leonards, Australia, 2University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia


Post-burn itch is a common issue and can have major detrimental effects on patients both physically and psychologically. Literature that considers different treatment options shows no clear consensus regarding effective treatment or prevention for the clinician caring for these patients.


The aim of this systematic review was to identify effective management strategies of post-burn itch to produce better physical and psychological outcomes.


A comprehensive search was completed of PubMed, CINAHL and Scopus databases using search terms burn, itch and pruritus. Fifteen studies matched the inclusion criteria and and were assessed for quality using the JBI checklist by two independent reviewers.


Five studies were excluded following critical appraisal and data was extracted from the remaining ten articles  into two groups- either pharmacological or non-pharmacological interventions. Two pharmacological articles highlight the benefits of Alpha 2 Delta (α2δ) ligands which are effective in the management of post-burn itch without inducing the common side-effects seen with antihistamines such as sleep and functional disturbance. Many of the studies also noted that non-pharmacological methods such as massage are also effective in the reduction of post-burn itch. However, no one product or strategy is completely effective in removing all post-burn itch indicating that further research is needed.

Siobhan has been working as the Burn Prevention/Education Manager of the ACI Statewide Burn Injury Service since November 2005. Before this time she worked as a Burns Nurse in the Burn Unit at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead for almost 10 years.

She is Chair of the ANZBA Burn Prevention Committee and the current ANZBA Treasurer. She also teaches burn management in NSW, across Australia and internationally and has led the development of numerous resources for burn management and prevention.

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