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Characteristics of Burn Patients Injured in Methamphetamine Laboratory Explosions

Spann, Matthew D. BS*; McGwin, Gerald Jr MS, PhD*†‡; Kerby, Jeffrey D. MD, PhD*‡; George, Richard L. MD, MSPH*‡; Dunn, Shane RN*; Rue, Loring W. III MD*‡; Cross, James M. MD*‡

doi: 10.1097/01.BCR.0000226056.81279.C9
Original Articles

The use of methamphetamine (MA) as a recreational drug has increased exponentially in recent years, resulting in an emergence of clandestine laboratories. Consequently, the frequency with which burn centers across the country are admitting patients injured as a consequence of the volatile manufacturing process of MA is increasing. This study focused on comparing outcomes between burn patients injured secondary to MA laboratory explosions and patients sustaining burns from other mechanisms. All patients identified to have suffered burns secondary to MA laboratory explosions between 1998 and 2004 were included in this study. These patients were compared with those who did not experience such burns during this same time period. In total, 19 patients were identified as having been burned in MA laboratory explosions. These patients had a larger component of third-degree burns (24.8% vs 13.5%; P < .05) as well as TBSA burned (28.4% vs 20.7%; P < .05). In addition, patients using MA had an increased incidence of inhalation injury (31.2% vs 6.1%; P < .05). They also exhibited a significantly increased frequency of complications, such as nosocomial pneumonia, respiratory failure, and sepsis. Overall, the rate of mortality was significantly increased in patients using MA (26.3% vs 8.5%; P < .05); however, no significant difference was observed after adjustment for age, burn size, and inhalation injury. MA burn patients have larger burn size, incidence of inhalation injury, and increased morbidity when compared with non-MA burn patients.

From the *Center for Injury Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham; †Department of Epidemiology and International Health, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham; and ‡Section of Trauma, Burns, and Surgical Care, Division of General Surgery, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Address correspondence to Dr. Gerald McGwin, Jr., Center for Injury Sciences at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, 120 Kracke Building, 1922 7th Avenue South, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama 35294-0016.

© 2006 The American Burn Association