Detection of Infection and Sepsis in Burns

Mark Jason M. Torres, Joshua M. Peterson, Steven E. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Infection is the most frequent complication after severe burns and has a propensity to progress into sepsis then septic shock and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS). Improving outcomes in acute burn care depends on early detection of infection to allow prompt interventions. Diagnosis of sepsis in severe burns is uniquely challenging because otherwise-typical clinical signs are masked by the hypermetabolic state and systemic inflammation induced by the burn itself. For this reason, burns have historically been excluded from high-impact studies on the diagnosis and treatment of sepsis. Methods: This article provides a comprehensive three-fold review of current findings and guidelines pertinent to the early detection of infection and sepsis in severe burns. Results: First, evidence-based detection of the most common infections encountered in the burn intensive care unit is reviewed. Second, we analyze the evolution of the diagnostic criteria for sepsis and the evidence regarding their utility in severe burns. Last, we examine the development of biomarkers, from procalcitonin to molecular genomics, for the detection of sepsis. Conclusions: Although gold standard methods of early detection of sepsis in burn patients have yet to be identified, improved understanding and appropriate application of the available diagnostic criteria and assays are paramount to providing effective care of patients with severe burns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-27
Number of pages8
JournalSurgical Infections
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • burn
  • burn injury
  • burn wound
  • infection
  • pneumonia
  • procalcitonin
  • sepsis
  • sepsis biomarkers
  • septic shock
  • wound infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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