Predisposing Factors for Self-inflicted Burns


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Abstract

Self-inflicted burn injuries, although uncommon, are a significant source of morbidity and mortality. The purpose of this study was to delineate the characteristics of these burns and to examine their impact on society. Records of 32 adult patients admitted for self-inflicted burns at our regional burn center between January 1996 and August 2001 were retrospectively reviewed. The mean burn size was 34 ± 29% TBSA, with the majority of burns being the result of self-immolation using a flammable liquid. There was a slight male predominance (59%) and a significant mortality rate (25%). Ninety-one percent of patients had an active psychiatric diagnosis, with 47% having had a previous suicide attempt. Two thirds had a chronic stressor, such as a chronic medical illness and/or long-term disability. Only four patients had private insurance, whereas the remainder relied on underfunded state- and county-sponsored programs or were uninsured. In addition to well-described psychiatric factors, common characteristics predisposing to self-inflicted burns include chronic medical illnesses, long-term disability, and a lack of access to adequate mental health care. Better treatment of mental illness in the underfunded population might ultimately save the high costs of these burn injuries.

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