Objectives Historically, burns have formed a significant proportion of the casualties of war. The management of burns in recent conflict has been found to be a resource-heavy undertaking, though its impact on both personnel and resources in current conflicts is unclear. A case analysis has been carried out in order to quantify the logistical impact of the management of burns on Role 3 Medical Treatment Facility (MTF) infrastructure and to examine if and how the cause and management of burns have evolved in early 21st century conflict.
Methods All casualties treated for burns at a Role 3 MTF over one calendar year were identified and scanned copies of their notes obtained from the UK Joint Theatre Trauma Registry and retrospectively analysed.
Results 88 of the 1461 (6.0%) trauma patients presenting to the Role 3 MTF over the year were treated for burns of whom 52.3% were combat troops and 45.4% civilians. Half of the burns were caused by non-conflict related mechanisms; the two commonest mechanisms were flame burns in 38/88 mostly non-conflict related cases and blast in 30/88 cases most of which were conflict related.
Conclusions The management of burns at war is a complex process. It is further confounded by the management of civilians with non-conflict related burns, which places a predictable strain on Role 3 MTF resources: theatre time, nursing time, dressing resources and bed space. This must be planned for in current and future deployed operations.