Hydrofluoric Acid Burns: A 15-Year Experience


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Abstract

Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is a strong inorganic acid commonly used in many domestic and industrial settings. It is one of the most common chemical burns encountered in a burn center and frequently engenders controversy in its management. We report our 15 year experience with management of HF burns. We reviewed our experience from 1990 to 2005 for patients admitted with HF burns. Primary treatment was with calcium gluconate gel. Arterial infusion of calcium and fingernail removal were reserved for unrelenting symptoms. There were 7944 acute burn admissions to our center during this study period, 204 of which were chemical burns. HF burns comprised 17% of these chemical burn admissions (35 patients). All were men, with a mean burn size of 2.1 ± 1.5% (range, 1–6%) and hospital stay of 1.6 ± 0.7 days (range, 0–3 days). The most common seasonal time of injury was in the summer. Twelve patients (34%) were admitted to the intensive care unit for a total of 14 intensive care unit days, primarily for arterial infusions. Ventilator support was not required in any patient. No electrolyte abnormalities occurred. All burns were either partial thickness or small full thickness with no operative intervention required and no deaths. The upper extremity was most commonly involved (29 patients, 83%). The most common cause was air conditioner cleaner (8 patients, 23%). HF is a common cause of chemical burns. Although hospital admission is usually required for vigorous treatment and pain control, burn size is usually small and does not cause electrolyte abnormalities, significant morbidity, or death.

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