How to Cool a Burn: A Heat Transfer Point of View

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Abstract

The objective of this work is to develop and validate a numerical model that can conduct a transient analysis of heat transfer and the corresponding damage in skin burns. Once this model is developed, an examination of the effect of cooling on reducing damage from skin burns is carried out. A finite element numerical model is used to simulate the conduction of heat and the transient progress of irreversible injury in the skin. The damage function of Henriques and Moritz is used to model the damage that occurs in the skin during the burn and cooling periods. Numerical results are presented that describe the heat transfer during a skin burn. Comparison is made between different burns: a high-temperature, short-duration burn (99°C for 1 second) and a medium-temperature, long-duration burn (80°C for 15 seconds). Cooling parameters such as the nature of the cooling fluid, the duration of the cooling period, the temperature of the coolant fluid, and the delay between the termination of the burn and the initiation of the cooling therapy are examined. The authors find that the most influential way to significantly reduce the damage from a burn is to immediately cool the burn. In addition, it was found that cooling a burn for a prolonged period of time or with very cold water cannot be justified from purely a heat transfer point of view.

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