Inhalation injury has emerged as the number one cause of fatality in the burn patient. Fiberoptic bronchoscopy and 133Xe scanning complement traditional clinical signs of inhalation injury and have led to discovery of a higher incidence of these injuries among patients with burns. Patients with inhalation injury typically demonstrate three stages: acute pulmonary insufficiency, pulmonary edema, and bronchopneumonia, all of which carry at least 50 percent mortality rates. The major early pathophysiologic changes in the lungs of burned patients are related to upper-airway obstruction and lower-airway permeability edema. Treatment consists of intubation for signs of respiratory distress, pulmonary toilet, humidification of inspired air, and antibiotics for documented infection.
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