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Access to U.S. Burn Centers Varies by Region

Northeasterners have best proximity, southerners the worst, study finds,,

TUESDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly 80 percent of Americans live within two hours by ground or helicopter transport of a verified burn center, but there are significant regional variations in access to these centers, a new study finds.

A verified burn center is one in which the quality of care has been assessed and confirmed by the American Burn Association. More than a half-million burn injuries and about 4,000 burn-related deaths occur each year in the United States, according to the association.

The study found that there were 128 self-reported burn centers in the United States in 2008, including 51 verified burn centers. The centers were served by 782 helipads and 804 helicopters. About 25 percent of the U.S. population lived within one hour by ground transport of a verified burn center, the study found. It also reported that 46 percent lived within two hours by ground transport and 68 percent lived within four hours by ground transport.

If taken by helicopter, about 54 percent could get to a verified burn center in an hour, and 79 percent in two hours, the study found. By helicopter, 75 percent could get to any self-reported burn center in an hour, and 96 percent in two hours.

The researchers noted that one-third of the U.S. population must be transported by air to reach a verified burn center within two hours.

Access varied greatly by region, the study authors reported in the Oct. 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The greatest proportion of the population with access was highest in the northeast region and lowest in the southern United States," wrote Dr. Matthew B. Klein, of the University of Washington in Seattle, and his research colleagues.

The regional variations identified in the study "may be an influential predictor of optimal regionalization strategy," they wrote. "For states and regions with a relatively high baseline rate of access, the best strategy for improving access and reducing time to definitive care may involve optimization of air and ground emergency medical service systems. For states and regions with a relatively low baseline rate of access, the best strategy may involve construction or verification of new regional burn care facilities."

The study did not determine optimal distribution of burn centers throughout the country, but the data "provide important information about population access that may be used to guide resource allocation in burn care," the researchers concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences has more about burns.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, Oct. 27, 2009

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