Study Shows Elderly Patients Have Higher Mortality When Serious Burn Injuries are Involved
A Canadian study shows that elderly patients who suffer serious burn injuries are less likely to survive treatment.
Researchers at the Sunnybrook Health Science Centre investigated why senior citizens developed serious complications when they suffered burn injuries. Elderly patients are, after suffering a trauma like a burn, more likely to exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions, endure a longer hospital stay, and develop multiorgan failure when compared to children and adult patients.
“We found that the elderly did not have the same immune response as younger adults, which is necessary to fight disease and injury. Their bodies lack some of the essential stem cells that are essential for skin healing,” says Dr. Jeschke, who is also Professor, Department of Surgery, Department of Immunology, Division of Plastic & Reconstructive and General Surgery, University of Toronto.
Researchers also found that metabolic responses seemed to be reversed in elderly patients compared to younger groups. “While younger patients moved into a state of less stress and less hyper metabolism over time, elderly patients showed the exact opposite trajectory,” says Dr. Jeschke.
The study investigated cases of 1,461 burn injury patients at the Sunnybrook burn injury center between 2006 and 2015. Researchers grouped patients according to age groups – 18 to 65 years old, and 65 years and older. The team found several markers in the elderly patients that could increase potential mortality from burn injuries, including delayed metabolic response, increased inflammation around the wounds over time, and changes in progenitor cells, which play a large role in the healing process.
“By learning the major differences that come with this age group, we will be able to better help elderly people who have been subjected to burn injuries,” says Dr. Saeid Amini-Nik, Junior Scientist, Sunnybrook Research Institute and Assistant Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto.
Help Prevent Burn Injuries in Older Adults
If you have an elderly loved one, advise other relatives and any hired caregivers to help prevent burn injuries. Senior citizens and children are more susceptible to problems caused by burn injuries, especially in the kitchen and the bathroom. A few steps you can take to help prevent burn injuries include:
- Use oven mitts instead of towels when removing food from the oven.
- Put a pan lid over pans and pots that contain hot grease or oil to prevent splatter injuries.
- Make sure the smoke alarm is nearby and in good working condition.
- Make sure you know the best “escape plan” for your home. If the senior citizen is in a retirement home, independent living facility, assisted living facility, or nursing home, these facilities must by law have posted fire escape plan notices. Ask administrators at the facility if you do not see them,and make sure that your loved one is familiar with the plan.
The CPSC also recommends contacting your local electric or gas company for help adjusting the temperature on your hot water heater, depending on whether the heater is powered by gas or electricity. Consider having the thermostat lowered below 120 degrees Fahrenheit as the maximum temperature to help prevent these kinds of burn injuries.
If you or a loved one suffered a burn injury and would like to learn more about injury and treatment, and legal options check our burn injury page here.