Psychological Consequences of Burns: Acute Stage

April 20, 2010

Acute stage:

This stage of recovery follows the resuscitative stage. In this stage the patient begins the healing process both physically and emotionally. Patients in this stage are still going through the painful procedures and treatments. They will start to be aware of the impact of the injury and how their injuries have changed their lives. Some have lost loved ones; some may have lost everything they have worked for.

Patients in this stage may experience sleep disturbance due to many factors: being in a hospital environmental with factors such as lights, staff awakening the patient for medication and to check vital signs. Anxiety and depression plays a major role in sleep disturbance. Nightmares, agitation and pain may also affect sleep. Acute stress disorder which occurs in the first month and post traumatic stress disorder which occurs after the first month manifest during this stage.

Psychological issues (pre-burn) such as depression may have an adverse effect on the outcome of the patient. These patients may stay in the hospital for a longer time and may have more severe psychological consequences after the injury.

Anxiety and depression counseling may be helpful to reassure the patient that after a trauma like this, it's not uncommon to experience these symptoms and that they may disappear on their own with time. Sometimes medication may be needed in addition to counseling.

Drugs, in the form of Opiates, may be used to treat pain. They can be either long acting or short acting. Long acting opiates are used for pain caused by the burn injury while short acting opiates are used for pain due to procedures performed such as wound care.

Non drug methods include hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy. A new technique called virtual reality can be helpful in burn patients, these patients often experience excruciating sensations of pain, and this will distract the attention of the patient from the painful procedures as a person can only focus on one stimulus at a time.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.