A closer look at burn injuries and epilepsy in a developing world burn service
Background: Burn injuries in South Africa result in significant morbidity and mortality, and specific vulnerable groups of patients are at increased risk of sustaining a burn injury. Epileptic patients are one such vulnerable group. The spectrum of burn injuries sustained by epileptic patients in a South African township and the pattern of injury, mechanism and outcome were reviewed in this study.
Method: A retrospective review of all epileptic patients admitted to the burn service of Edendale Hospital was undertaken for the period July 2011 to June 2013.
Results: One hundred and ninety-seven adult patients were admitted with burns over this period. There were 39 epileptic patients in this cohort, of whom 26 were female. The average age of the patients was 36 years (a range of 21–40 years). The majority of patients sustained a small total body surface area burn. The most common mechanism of burn was from a fire or flames, followed by hot water scalding. Coal or wood fires were the predominant energy source used for heating and cooking at home.
Conclusion: Epileptics comprise a significant proportion of patients who sustain a burn injury. Typically, they sustain burns during a seizure. These are mostly caused by open flames in the South African environment, and are deep. They tend to be confined to the upper torso, upper limbs and hands. Injury prevention programmes should target epileptics as a vulnerable group.