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What Are the Most Common Causes of Burn Injuries?

Posted April 21, 2016 | Personal Injury

The National Burn Repository monitors burn injuries in the United States.  The Repository issues a comprehensive annual report that includes information about burn causes, hospital admissions, victims’ ages, medical complications, and other data.  If you or one of your loved ones recently suffered a burn injury in Pennsylvania, you may be entitled to compensation.  You should speak to an experienced Philadelphia burn injury attorney about the legal options that may be open to your family.

Burn Injuries by Age and Gender: Who is at Highest Risk?

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that burn injuries cause approximately 265,000 deaths globally each year.  In the United States alone, about 410,000 people were burned in 2008.  About 40,000 of them – close to 10% – were injured severely enough to require hospitalization.  This figure seems to have remained constant over time, with the American Burn Association also reporting 40,000 U.S. hospitalizations in 2010, two years later.

The National Burn Repository’s 2015 report analyzed nearly 203,500 burn admission records, an increase of 12,000 – about 1,000 additional burns per month – from the previous year.  These records were taken from nearly 100 hospitals and burn centers across 36 states.  Most of the hospitals that contributed data were non-profit organizations with at least 500 beds.  While the bulk of the records came from the northeast, which has more burn centers than other regions of the country, the report describes its data as a representative cross-section of all U.S. treatment facilities.

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The report found that, across every single age demographic, men were consistently more likely to be hospitalized for burns than women – often by wide margins.  This gender gap was most prominent in the 20- to 29-year-old group, where men were over three times more likely to suffer burns than women: 23,001 injuries to 7,634.  In other age groups, such as 80 and above, this gap was substantially narrower: 2,665 injuries to 2,624, barely a difference at all.

Interestingly, these were the same two age groups with the highest and lowest numbers of injuries overall.  The 20- to 29-year-old group accounted for 30,635 total burns, while, at the opposite end of the spectrum, 80-year-olds and above accounted for only 5,289 burns – about one sixth as many.  The 40- to 49-year-old group had the second highest number of injuries, with 28,422 burns reported.

What Were the Leading Causes of Burns in 2015?

If you would guess that fire was the leading cause of burn injuries in 2015, you’d be correct – but by a narrower margin than you might imagine.  Scalds, which are caused by contact with steam or hot water, followed close behind.  According to the Burn Repository report, these were the top seven causes of burns in 2015 (excluding “other,” “unknown,” and “unspecified”):

  1. Exposure to fire – 79,303 cases (42.6%)
  2. Scalding, which is often caused by spilling coffee or boiling liquids on the stove – 63,247 cases (34%)
  3. Coming into contact with hot objects, like baking sheets, irons, or saucepans – 16,588 cases (8.9%)
  4. Electrical burns, which are often caused by contact with wires or exposed electronic components – 6,689 cases (3.6%)
  5. Chemical burns, which are caused by caustic substances like battery acid – 6,301 cases (3.4%)
  6. Inhalation burns, which occur when the victim breathes in smoke or heated air – 3,231 cases (1.7%)
  7. Radiation burns, which are often caused by medical procedures like x-rays and chemotherapy – 478 cases (0.3%)

Most of these burns – 132,233, or about 73.2% – occurred at home.  Workplace burn injuries were also fairly common, with 14,565 (about 8.1%) occurring in industrial settings.  The report linked 135,118 cases (71.7%) to non-work accidents, while 25,892 additional cases (13.7%) were described as work accidents.

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What Were the Most Common Medical Complications?

Unfortunately, burns often lead to serious complications which impede and prolong recovery.  According to the report, the most common complications of burn injuries in 2015 were:

  • Arrythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Bacteremia and septicemia (bacteria in the bloodstream)
  • Blood infections/systemic infections
  • Cellulitis (skin infection)
  • Pneumonia
  • Renal failure (kidney failure)
  • Respiratory failure
  • UTI (urinary tract infection)
  • Wound infection

Gauging by the patient’s total number of days spent on a ventilator, pneumonia was the most medically serious complication.  Well over 4,000 patients spent four or more days on a ventilator due to pneumonia, followed by approximately 2,500 patients suffering from respiratory failure.  Pneumonia was the most common complication of fire-related burns (3,738 cases, or 11.9%), while cellulitis was the most common complication of scald injuries (1,371 cases, or 17.7%).  Cellulitis was also the most common complication when burns were caused by contact with hot objects (345 cases, or 17.1%).

Contact Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer Brent Wieand for Help Today

If you were accidentally burned in a Philadelphia workplace accident, or while you were using a defective product, you may have a right to get compensated for your medical bills and other losses.  Call product liability lawyer Brent Wieand at (800) 481-5206 to set up a free and confidential legal consultation.

***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes.  It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice.***