Burn Unit Referral Criteria

A burn unit may treat adults or children or both.

Burn injuries that should be referred to a burn unit include the following:

  • Partial thickness burns greater than 10% total body surface area (TBSA).
  • Burns that involve the face, hands, feet, genitalia, perineum, or major joints.
  • Third-degree burns in any age group.
  • Electrical burns, including lightning injury.
  • Chemical burns
  • Inhalation burns
  • Burn injury in patients with pre-existing medical disorders that could complicate management, prolong recovery, or affect mortality.
  • Any patient with burns and concomitant trauma (such as fractures) in which the burn injury poses the greatest risk of morbidity or mortality. In such cases, if the trauma poses the greater immediate risk, the patient may be initially stabilized in a trauma center before being transferred to a burn unit. Physician judgement will be necessary in situations and should be in concert with the regional medical control plan and triage protocols.
  • Burned children in hospitals without qualified personnel or equipment for the care of children.
  • Burn injury in patients who will require special social, emotional or long-term rehabilitative intervention.

Excerpted from Guidelines for the Operations of Burn Units (pp. 55-62), Resources for Optimal Care of the Injured Patient: 1999, Committee on Trauma, American College of Surgeons.