Motorcycle Muffler–Induced “Pillion Burns” of Distal Leg: A Persistent Problem of Increasing Proportions in Indian Settings

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Motorcycles have emerged as a viable mode of transport for millions in the third world. Mufflers (exhaust pipes in some countries) remain a potential “Achilles’ tendon” or a designing flaw in the mass-produced, economical motorcycles of the developing world. Owing to the excessive temperature they attain while the hot exhaust gases pass through them and their proximity to the lower limbs while riding a motorcycle, they can lead to burns of varying nature in the lower leg. This is a descriptive retrospective study of muffler-induced lower leg burns treated at our hospital from January 2008 to December 2012. Various parameters including history, exact mode of injury, age, sex, degree and location of burn, treatment modalities, and other relevant circumstantial/logistical factors associated with such injuries were noted; data were tabulated and statistically arranged to gain an insight into this problem. Possible interventions that may help avoid such injuries are also briefly mentioned. Certain findings that are quite distinct to the findings of a few earlier studies carried out on this topic (in the developed world) remain the highlight of our study. The typical muffler-induced burns in the Indian setting occur almost exclusively in the male pillions, most of the times in the right leg in an area near the medial maleolus, and are usually second degree and respond to conservative management. Prompt treatment can circumvent much of the dreaded complications. Preemptive efforts in designing of motorcycles and following traffic regulations at the individual level remain the key to prevention.

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