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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 17-23

Respiratory burn injuries: An overview

The Arizona Burn Center, Maricopa Medical Center, Department of Surgery, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix, Division of Community, Environment and Policy, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, University of Arizona Health ­Sciences Center, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Correspondence Address:
Michael Peck
The Arizona Burn Center, Maricopa Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona, USA. University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-653X.121876

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Respiratory burns are caused by the aspiration of heated gases or toxic products of incomplete combustion. The extent of damage is determined by the temperature of the inhaled gases, their composition and the duration of exposure. Along with age and size of full-thickness burn injury, the presence of respiratory burns is one of the most powerful predictors of poor outcome in patients admitted to burn centers. There are three types of respiratory burns: (a) Inhalation of systemic asphyxiants such as carbon monoxide. (b) Thermal damage to airway above vocal cords. (c) Injury to tracheobronchial tree and pulmonary parenchyma by inhaled toxicants. The goals of initial management of the airway and breathing are to protect the patency of the airway to prevent suffocation and to ensure adequate ventilation and oxygenation. High levels of inspired oxygen are necessary to treat carbon monoxide poisoning. Intubation and mechanical ventilator support with low tidal volumes is required to treat subglottic respiratory burns. Because there are no known antidotes to the poisonous effects of inhaled smoke, treatment of respiratory burns is protective and supportive.

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