Sepsis in the burn patient: A different problem than sepsis in the general population

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Sepsis has recently been defined as "life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to infection". A great amount of effort has been made to develop early treatments for sepsis through the Surviving Sepsis Campaign. There are similar but slightly different recommendations for the treatment of sepsis in the pediatric population. These international efforts have led to earlier diagnosis and treatments for sepsis that have led to improvements in survival. Sepsis is also the leading cause of death in the burn patient but most clinical sepsis studies have excluded burns. The reason for the exclusion is that the sepsis found in burn patients is different than that of the general population. The early treatment strategies, such as those directed by the Surviving Sepsis Campaign, focus on patients presenting to hospitals with recent signs of infection. Burn patients lose their primary barrier to infection, the skin, and thus the risk of infection persists as long as that barrier is absent. Efforts have been made to define sepsis, septic shock and infection in the burn population but there is constant need for revisions. One focus of this review is to discuss the differences in burn sepsis versus sepsis of the general population. Children often have profound responses to sepsis but can also make remarkable recoveries. This review will also explore problems specific to pediatric burns. The treatment of burns requires a continuous vigilance to watch for the subtle early signs of sepsis and then expeditious initiation of aggressive therapy. Strategies covering optimal management of pediatric burn sepsis will also be summarized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number23
JournalBurns and Trauma
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Burns
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Multiple organ dysfunction syndrome
  • Pediatric
  • Sepsis
  • Septic shock

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Dermatology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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