"Back in Kim Phuc's time, one usually would add the age of the patient to the amount of body surface that was burned in order to predict mortality," he explained. Using that formula, a 50-year-old patient with burns covering 50 percent of her body faced a nearly 100 percent chance of death.
"Today, however, that same patient would have a 50 percent survival rate -- a doubling of his or her chances," Yurt said. That's due to better anesthetics, better nutrition and respiratory care, as well as more careful monitoring of cardiac function, he said.
The advent of artificial skin products, not available in the 1970s, has also revolutionized skin-graft surgery when used in conjunction with actual skin tissue, Yurt added.
There are also many more burn-care facilities in the United States today. According to the Phoenix Burn Society, over 140 specialized facilities now care for the more than 500,000 Americans who seek medical treatment for burn injuries each year.
Yurt called that a "major advance, because back in the 1970s we would have to send burn patients from New York City, for example, all the way to the army burn center in San Antonio to get treatment. Now we can treat them quickly, right here."
But the single most important change in burn care has been a paradigm shift in the way doctors approach treatment, he said.
"In years past we were concerned about operating too early because patients were so unstable," Yurt said. "We now realize that early and aggressive intervention is actually critical," he explained.
"This has meant that skin grafting has become much more successful, while the occurrence of wound infections has dropped off dramatically," the expert said. "The long-range outcome is much, much bette
All rights reserved