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Burns (inhalational)

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Inhalation injury is a serious condition and may be a consequence of any fire. Injury may be the result of direct thermal injury or inhaled chemicals such as carbon monoxide or cyanide. The majority of deaths after fires are a consequence of inhalation injury.

Typically, inhalation injury is classified according to site:

  • above the larynx
  • extending below the larynx
  • systemic effects via the lungs

There must be a low threshold for suspicion of inhalation injury for all burns. Impending airway obstruction must be treated with endotracheal intubation. Maximal airway oedema occurs after about 24 hours and for this reason, patients with suspected inhalation injury must be closely observed. For severe inhalation, treatment is primarily that of respiratory support.

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