Cause of death and correlation with autopsy findings in burns patients

P. Krishnan, Q. Frew, A. Green, R. Martin, P. Dziewulski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Objective: Global mortality from burns is decreasing however there is a relative paucity of mortality data in the literature from burns units in the United Kingdom. We present an analysis of burns deaths and correlation with coroners' autopsy findings from a large regional burns unit. Design: Retrospective medical note review of patients who died over a 7 year period (January 2005 to April 2011) was undertaken. Patient demographics were recorded in addition to: burn size, depth, length of stay, presence of inhalational injury, organs failing and diagnosis of sepsis. In order to evaluate the accuracy of our pre-mortem clinical diagnosis, we compared post-mortem cause of death with clinical cause of death. Results: There were 92 deaths out of 4745 admissions for acute burn (crude mortality 1.9%). 37 patients were immediately given comfort care and excluded from analysis. Average age was 52.9 years ± 19.4, average percentage burn 43.7% ± 26.8, and length of stay 26.4 ± 45 days. 80% of deaths were attributable to flame burn (44/55), and 51% (28/55) suffered inhalational injury. Multi-organ failure was the primary cause of death (39/55), with sepsis being the primary trigger (20/39, 51%). Pseudomonas was the most common organism isolated in septic patients. There were significant difficulties in obtaining post-mortem reports and an obvious lack of correlation between coroners' reports and clinical cause of death. Conclusions: The principal cause of mortality in our unit was multi-organ failure due to sepsis, which concurs with current literature. Autopsy has previously been shown to be a useful retrospective diagnostic tool, however we challenge its reliability as a result of our study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-588
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Burns
  • Coroner
  • Mortality
  • Multi-organ failure
  • Sepsis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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