Epidemiology of paediatric hand burn injuries: the experience of a tertiary burns centre over a five year period

Dr Grace Brownlee1,2, Dr Bronwyn Griffin1,2,3, Professor Roy Kimble1,2,3

1The Pegg Leditschke Children’s Burns Centre, Queensland Children’s Hospital, South Brisbane, Australia, 2The University of Queensland Faculty of Medicine, Herston, Australia, 3Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research, South Brisbane, Australia


In the paediatric population, hand burn injuries are a common presentation, and warrant referral to a specialist burn centre. They provide a unique management challenge for multidisciplinary teams, in both short-term wound management and long-term functional outcomes. For young children in particular, their hands comprise a mode of environmental exploration and are a vital tool for development.

Using the Queensland Paediatric Burns Registry, we identified 4,334 patients who were treated for burn injury at the Pegg Leditschke Children’s Burns Centre between 2013 and 2017. Of these, 1,464 (34%) patients suffered a burn that involved one or both hands, with the most common mechanism of injury being contact from a hot surface (65%). The majority of patients were managed non-operatively, however 23 children with hand burns required a split thickness skin graft, constituting 19% of all split thickness skin grafts during this period. In keeping with the literature, the most commonly affected age group were children less than 3 years of age (63%).

Paediatric hand burns have been widely publicised to date, however most authors have focussed on particular mechanisms of injury, specifically those relating to certain domestic household items. We have identified few papers that address hand burns as a group or demonstrate the true burden of injury. Given that injury to this area constitutes one third of our patient presentations, we feel that deconstructing our experience with hand burn injuries will facilitate development of targeted outcome predictors, management strategies and prevention campaigns.


Dr Grace Brownlee is a Senior House Officer in Paediatric Surgery at the Queensland Children’s Hospital. She completed her medical education at the University of Queensland in 2016.

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