Liquid propane causes a severe, deep thermal injury in unprotected tissue. Delayed surgical intervention, as for thermal burns, has been the gold standard of treatment. An animal model of liquid-propane injury was devised to document injury, to demonstrate a better method of protection, and to define an appropriate management protocol. Twenty-eight rats were classified into four groups: unprotected tissue (n = 8), skin covered with wool (n = 8), skin covered with Neoprene (Wm. H. Horn & Brothers Inc., Philadelphia, Pa.) (n = 8), and skin covered with wool plus Neoprene (n = 4). Each group was subdivided into two exposure times: 6 seconds and 30 seconds. The mean temperatures +/- standard error of the mean of the various tissue levels initially and at 6 and 30 seconds of exposure were determined. Histologic examination demonstrated that full-thickness tissue necrosis occurred in unprotected and wool-covered tissue. Areas that were covered with Neoprene showed intact skin and subcutaneous tissue with underlying muscle necrosis. Examination of the tissue that was covered with wool plus Neoprene showed no histologic damage. There was no sign of tissue regeneration at the wound periphery, and there was no histologic difference in any group, whether the examination took place at 1 or 5 days after injury. This study demonstrated that the best form of protection appears to be a wool glove liner covered with a Neoprene glove. The histologic evidence suggests that a liquid-propane injury to unprotected tissue should be managed aggressively with early excision and grafting.
(C)1991The American Burn Association