Association between Burn Location and Psychological Distress: A Burn Model System National Database Study

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Journal of Burn Care & Research


Burn injuries often lead to psychological distress, from depression and anxiety to adjustment concerns and posttraumatic stress. There is some evidence that the anatomical location of burn injuries (e.g., head/neck, feet) has a specific negative impact on psychological functioning. The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between burn injury location and emotional distress. First, we administered self-report questionnaires to burn survivors with ≤ 5% TBSA at a single adult outpatient burn clinic. Second, we used a cross-sectional analysis of the Burn Model System National Database. The mean values of each measure of psychological distress (i.e., quality of life, self-esteem, depression, posttraumatic stress, anxiety, and, for contrast, posttraumatic growth) were examined for each anatomical location for those participants with a burn in those anatomical areas against those with burn in other areas, Using Kruskal-Wallis tests to compare psychological distress, we found no significant differences in outcome measures in either sample analyzed in our study. These findings contrast with prior literature indicating the negative psychological impact of burn injuries to certain locations in the body. Further research should explore whether larger burns (i.e., greater than 5% TBSA) affecting critical areas of the body may be associated with psychological distress.

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