This study prospectively examined the incidence and severity of large joint contractures after burn injury and determined predictors of contracture development. Data were collected prospectively from 1993 to 2002 for consecutive adult burn survivors admitted to a regional burn center. Demographic and medical data were collected on each subject. The primary outcome measures included the presence of contractures, number of contractures per patient, and severity of contractures at each of four joints (shoulder, elbow, hip, knee) at time of hospital discharge. Logistic regression analysis was performed to determine predictors of the presence and severity of contractures and a negative binomial regression was performed to determine predictors of the number of contractures. Of the 985 study patients, 381 (38.7%) developed at least one contracture at hospital discharge. Among those with at least one contracture, the mean is three contractures per person. The shoulder was the most frequently contracted joint (38%), followed by the elbow (34%) and knee (22%). Most contractures were mild (60%) or moderate (32%) in severity. Statistically significant predictors of contracture development were length of stay (P < .005) and extent of burn (P = .033) and graft (P < .005). Predictors of the severity of contracture include graft size (P < .005), amputation (P = .034), and inhalation injury (P = .036). More than one third of the patients with a major burn injury developed a contracture at hospital discharge, which highlights the importance of therapeutic positioning and intensive therapy intervention during acute hospitalization. Furthermore, this challenges the burn care community to find new and better ways of preventing contractures after burn injury.
From the *Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; and †Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Texas.
Address correspondence to Jeffrey C. Schneider, MD, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School, 125 Nashua Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02114.
Supported by funds from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the U.S. Department of Education (Grant # H133A020104).