Background: The relationship of the burn wound flora to microbial pathogens in the tracheobronchial tree has important implications for antimicrobial therapy in the severely burned patient. Management of septic complications is bolstered by surveillance quantitative wound cultures (QWC) and bronchial lavage fluid (BLF) cultures. Objectives: To compare the organisms present in BLF with those found in QWC and to determine if QWC can predict BLF results. Design: Results of BLF cultures from all patients who underwent bronchial lavage from January 1, 1996, to December 31, 1996, at our institution were compared with QWC data from the same date. Criteria for a positive match included an identical antibiotic susceptibility pattern and biotype. Match rates were calculated qualitatively and quantitatively. Results: In 30 (48%) of the 62 BLF cultures, there was a match between the organism identified in the BLF and the QWC. When strict quantitative criteria were applied, the match rate was only 9 (14%) of 62. Burn size and inhalation injury had no significant effect on match rate. Conclusions: Whereas the microbial pathogens were similar in the QWC and BLF, linear regression showed no value of QWC in predicting BLF culture results. The difference between qualitative and quantitative match rates suggests cross-colonization between the burn wound and tracheobronchial tree, but little to no cross-infection. The QWC and BLF cultures must be performed independently in determining antimicrobial specificity in the burned patient.
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