Background: Pneumonia is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in burn patients with inhalation injuries. An increased risk of pneumonia has been demonstrated in trauma and burn patients urgently intubated in the field vs. emergency departments (EDs).
Objectives: To compare intubation setting (field vs. ED) and subsequent development of pneumonia in burn patients and to evaluate the indication for urgent intubation outside the hospital setting.
Methods: A retrospective medical records review was conducted on all intubated patients presenting with thermal (study group, 118 patients) or trauma (control group A, 74 patients) injuries and admitted to the intensive care unit of a level I trauma and burn center at a single institution during a 15 year period. Control group B (50 patients) included non-intubated facial burn patients hospitalized in the plastic surgery department.
Results: Field intubation was less frequent (37% field vs. 63% ED), although it was more frequent in larger burns (total body surface area > 50%; 43% field vs. 27% ED). More field intubated patients developed pneumonia during hospitalization (65% field vs. 36% ED [burns]; 81% field vs. 45% ED [multi-trauma]; 2% non-intubated, P < 0.05), with a significantly higher all-cause mortality (49% field vs. 24% ED, P < 0.05) and dramatically lower rates of extubation within 3 days (7% field vs. 27% ED, P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Field intubation is associated with a higher risk of subsequent development of pneumonia in burn and multi-trauma patients and should be applied with caution, only when airway patency is at immediate risk.