Multiple Organ Failure as a Cause of Death in Patients With Severe Burns

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The aim of this study was to investigate the causes of death in patients with burns using both medicolegal autopsy reports and clinical data collected during treatment to specify irreversible organ dysfunctions leading to death. Burn deaths occurring in the Helsinki Burn Center from 1995 to 2005 were identified in the hospital database. The clinical charts and medicolegal autopsy reports were retrieved and compared. The data were evaluated by plastic surgeons specialized in burn care, an intensivist, and a pathologist, with special reference to organ-specific changes in the autopsy reports. From 1999 to 2005, there were 71 burn deaths in the Helsinki Burn Center of which 40% was caused by multiple organ failure (MOF). Death from untreatable burn injury was recorded in 28 patients, whereas other causes were scarce. MOF patients displayed approximately four organ failures on average, ranging from three to eight. All 28 MOF patients were recorded to have acute renal failure, followed by liver damage, of which four patients had acute or chronic liver failure. Sepsis was always affiliated with MOF as a cause of death. In conclusion, careful examination of MOF as a cause of death revealed several organ failures: four organ failures per patient. Acute renal failure was noted in all MOF patients. Sepsis was always affiliated with MOF.

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