Respiratory management of inhalation injury

Ronald P. Mlcak, Oscar E. Suman, David Herndon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

175 Scopus citations


Advances in the care of patients with major burns have led to a reduction in mortality and a change in the cause of their death. Burn shock, which accounted for almost 20 percent of burn deaths in the 1930s and 1940s, is now treated with early, vigorous fluid resuscitation and is only rarely a cause of death. Burn wound sepsis, which emerged as the primary cause of mortality once burn shock decreased in importance, has been brought under control with the use of topical antibiotics and aggressive surgical debridement. Inhalation injury has now become the most frequent cause of death in burn patients. Although mortality from smoke inhalation alone is low (0-11 percent), smoke inhalation in combination with cutaneous burns is fatal in 30 to 90 percent of patients. It has been recently reported that the presence of inhalation injury increases burn mortality by 20 percent and that inhalation injury predisposes to pneumonia. Pneumonia has been shown to independently increase burn mortality by 40 percent, and the combination of inhalation injury and pneumonia leads to a 60 percent increase in deaths. Children and the elderly are especially prone to pneumonia due to a limited physiologic reserve. It is imperative that a well organized, protocol driven approach to respiratory care of inhalation injury be utilized so that improvements can be made and the morbidity and mortality associated with inhalation injury be reduced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-13
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Burns
  • Inhalation injury
  • Respiratory care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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