Assessment of Pruritus Characteristics and Impact on Burn Survivors

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The goal of this cross-sectional study was to characterize and describe persistent postburn pruritus. Cause and treatment of postburn itch is elusive. It has been suggested that burn survivors with persistent pruritus should be divided into acute itch (≤6 months postinjury) and chronic itch (>6 months postinjury) because the cause of itch may be different. Cross-sectional data of itch characteristics reported here are from the baseline data of a prospective, randomized, double-blind, controlled pilot study of 23 subjects with frequent and bothersome postburn pruritus. Subjects self-completed validated scales for variables of itch sensation, affect of itch, and severity. Variables of quality of life, frequency, pain and itch intensity, skin condition, scar, and medication were also recorded. Itch frequency revealed that 87% of subjects experienced itching daily, 96% experienced three or more episodes a day, and 52% had episode durations lasting 5 to 30 minutes per incidence. Itch was reported as unbearable by 94% of subjects with chronic itch and by 86% of subjects with acute itch, whereas bothersome was 88 and 100%, respectively. Itch sensation dimension of stinging was 74% in both acute and chronic itch subjects. Crawling and burning sensations were often severe. Potential itch triggers and relief activities were identified. Differences in sensory and affective itch components were detected between acute and chronic itch subjects. Combinations of itch mechanisms probably contribute to the development of and changes in pruritus. Characterizing the sensation and affective itch dimensions in conjunction with inflammation, burn injury, recovery, scar maturation, medication, and psychological status should better elucidate postburn itch.

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