Burn wound edema is a source of major morbidity and mortality. To quantitatively study this edema, we have devised a noninvasive method called Dichromatic Absorptiometry (DA) which is precise (2-3%) and accurate (r=0.99) in measuring changes in tissue fluid. A scanning technique using a dual photon source, 125I and 241Am, is used. The variable attenuation of the two photon energies allows for selective mass measurements of fluid, protein, lipid, and bone. In limbs with thermal injury the correlation of DA changes in fluid mass with circumference was (r=0.97), but DA was more sensitive. In deep second- and third-degree burns, edema formation was maximum between 12 and 18 hours postburn with 80% of maximum already present at 4 hours. Resorption was complete by 1 week in second-degree burns, but significantly delayed in third-degree burns. Superimposed infection produced persistent edema.
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