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Burn rehabilitation experts at UT Southwestern outline best treatments for post-burn itching
Date:2/26/2009

nt Gabriel, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at UT Southwestern and clinical director for the North Texas Burn Rehabilitation Model System. "It disturbs the patients' sleep. At times, they compromise wound healing by scratching. In an extreme case I can recall, one patient would get up at night and rub his back up against door frames and even a tree to get relief."

Burn scar tissue lacks the usual oil glands found in normal skin. As a result, the scar is chronically dry and prone to itching simply from a lack of hydration or lubrication, Dr. Gabriel said.

He and his colleagues outlined a possible hierarchy of treatment strategies in the study, starting with topical creams and ointments and progressing to oral antihistamines as well as evaluating non-medicinal treatments such as lasers, nerve stimulators and massage.

"Your arm is about 9 percent of your body's surface area, and your chest is 18 percent. It's not practical to use one treatment for all of that space, so you have to combine the topical and oral treatment to come up with the best protocol," he said.

Researchers ranked the effectiveness of typical treatments using a method called the Physiotherapy Evidence Database, or PEDro, score. No treatments garnered an "excellent" rating and none were found effective on all patients. Treatments categorized as "good" include:

  • cimetidine, a prescription antihistamine pill;
  • colloidal oatmeal bath as a topical treatment; and
  • pulsed dye laser therapy, in the non-medicine category.

Massage, nerve stimulation and treatment with an antihistamine called Atarax scored "fair."

Other findings from the study include:

  • Persistent, post-burn itching was estimated to affect about 87 percent of all patients.
  • Itching typically begins in the first two weeks after a burn injury.
  • Predictors of itching included wounds requiring more tha
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Contact: Russell Rian
russell.rian@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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Burn rehabilitation experts at UT Southwestern outline best treatments for post-burn itching
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