Self-Inflicted Burns in Soldiers

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Abstract

Background

Self-inflicted burns are a multidisciplinary medical challenge. In contrast to the more common motive of attempted suicide in self-infliction of a burn, usually of a serious degree, a second motive is malingering. Motivation of this nature has been exhibited among Israeli soldiers who inflict on themselves low- to moderate-degree burns to obtain dismissal from mandatory military service. The purpose of our study is to investigate and define this phenomenon.

Methods

A retrospective analysis was performed on a population of 75 soldiers admitted to our Medical Center during the year 2010 with the diagnosis of any sort of burn. We set up a database including all relevant information about the burns including date and time of occurrence, cause, body location, depth of burn injury, area and shape of burn, etiology, and prescribed treatment.

Results

The summer was found to be the season with the highest incidence of burns. As far as the day of the week was influential, we found that the greater percentage of burns occurred at the beginning of the week. Most of the burns involved a minor surface area on the dorsal aspect of the foot. Scalding with hot water was the most common cause of burn. Eighty-one percent of the burns were atypical, being well demarcated.

Results

Most of the burn cases happened at home with no witnesses to the event. Sixty-one percent of the patients were not admitted to the hospital and were conservatively treated.

Conclusions

Israeli soldiers tend to inflict burns on themselves for ulterior motives. Such burns are almost always minor with a small trauma area and sharp demarcations, and hence can be differentiated from other self-inflicted burns described in the literature.

Conclusions

We found that most of the burns occur when the soldiers are on vacation at home. This is probably because the privacy allows them to carry out their act undisturbed.

Conclusions

It is important to raise the awareness of attending physicians to the characteristics of these burns. Such patients should be evaluated by medical teams including mental health professionals to help them psychologically and to eliminate this unfortunate problem.

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