The aim of this report is to describe cases of burn injury requiring hospitalisation in Australia from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014. While burn injuries make up a small fraction (1%) of all hospitalisations for injury, they are often the most serious and can result in numerous repeat admissions and long lengths of stay.
In 2013–14 there were 5,430 cases of hospitalised burn injury. About two-thirds were male (3,654 cases). The highest rate of burn injury was in the youngest age group (0–4) for both boys (75 cases per 100,000 population) and girls (51 cases per 100,000 population).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 9% of all burn cases and had a higher rate of hospitalisation (58 cases per 100,000 population) than other Australians (22 cases per 100,000 population). Burn cases were more common in the youngest Indigenous age group (0–4) as for the overall population.
Most burn cases had burns of partial thickness of the skin (70%, 3,269 cases) or full thickness (23%, 1,070), rather than to the top layer of skin only. About one-fifth (21%, 1,158 cases) of burns were to the wrist and hand but body region burned varied by age. In very young children burns to the trunk (21%) were also common, while older Australians (aged 65 and over) had the highest proportion of burns to the hip and lower limb (22%).
The average length of stay for all burn cases was 7 days; it was longer for older Australians aged 65 and over at 13 days. About 5% (246 cases) of hospitalised burn cases spent time in an intensive care unit with an average length of stay of 141 hours per case.
In 2013–14, 48 burn victims died in hospital (29 males and 19 females). Over half (56%) of these deaths occurred among older Australians aged 65 and over (27 cases). Of those that died in hospital, 27 cases had full thickness burns to more than 50% of total body surface area.
About 16% (850 cases) of hospitalised burn cases were considered high threat to life (HTTL). Larger proportions of cases among adults aged 25–44 and 45–64 were HTTL (34% and 20% of cases respectively). The average length of stay was much higher for HTTL cases at 17 days. More than 4 out of 5 HTTL burn cases (84%) had sustained a full skin thickness burn injury.
This report looked at 3 main cause groups of burns: Exposure to smoke, fire and flames, Contact with heat and hot substances and other external causes of burns. Contact with heat and hot substances accounted for almost half of all cases (45%). Exposure to smoke, fire and flames was the main cause of burn cases in adulthood with 78% of cases occurring in those aged 15–64. In contrast, Contact with heat and hot substances was the cause of 37% of burn cases among children aged under 10. Other external causes of injury such as explosions and contact with electrical transmission lines resulted in higher proportions of HTTL cases and more severe burns as measured by thickness of burn.