We reviewed the mortality experience in Halifax burn units over the ten-year period January, 1967, to April, 1977. Major complications leading to death were examined and related to initial injury, length of survival, and preexisting disease. When possible, antemortem diagnoses were compared with postmortem pathological findings.
Renal failure, sepsis, and pulmonary complications were the most frequent causes of death in burn patients. The patients who died from renal failure tended to expire soon after being burned, and tended to have been inadequately hydrated during the long journey to Halifax. Patients with sepsis did not die within the first 48 hours of being burned. Early excision of the burn wound with homograft replacement might have prevented some of these deaths. Pulmonary complications early in the postburn course appeared related to closed-space and possibly to inhalation injury. However, pneumonia tended to predominate later.