Epidemiology and Outcomes of Auricular Burn Injuries

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Abstract

Auricular burns represent a unique type of injury. The acute management and clinical course of these injuries can be different from other facial burns. There is a paucity of literature pertaining to the epidemiology and acute management of auricular burns. Most studies focus on deformity reconstruction. The aim of this study was to characterize the epidemiology, treatment, and outcomes of auricular burns. Data from all patients presenting to a regional burn center in a 4-year period were reviewed and those with auricular burns were identified. Demographic data, burn mechanism, insurance status, method of treatment, need for skin grafting, percentage graft-take, time to reepithelialization and incidence of deformity were reviewed. During the study period, 593 facial burns were evaluated and 132 (22%) sustained burns to the auricle. The most common mechanisms of injury were flame (65.1%) and scalding (22.5%). Auricular burns were mostly second degree (88%), involved both ears in 44%, and involved only the ventral aspect of the ear in 57%. The majority of patients healed well with conservative management; none suffered from chondritis. Of the 89 patients followed to healing, 1 patient (1.1%) received full-thickness skin grafts to the auricle, resulting in excellent graft-take. All other patients were managed nonoperatively, and none suffered from ear deformities. Auricular burns occur with surprising frequency in patients presenting to burn centers. Careful acute management of these injuries can eliminate development of chondritis and minimize the rate of deformity and need for reconstruction. The majority of wounds heal with conservative management, but time to reepithelialization can be prolonged.

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