Burns in Geriatrics

February 28, 2012

A geriatric is a person who is older than 65 years. The geriatric population is increasing in developed countries due to the improvement of services and quality of life.

Flames and scalds are the leading cause of burns in geriatrics. Risk factors that may contribute to burn injury in elderly people include:


  • Living alone.

  • Decrease in the level of mobility.

  • Decreased supervision of elderly people.

  • Decreased smell and decreased reaction time.

All degrees of burns can happen (First, Second and Third), but there are risk factors that may increase the severity of the burn which may include:

  • The presence of chronic diseases such diabetes.

  • Atrophy (thinning) of the skin and subcutaneous fat.

  • Nutritional deficiency.

  • Cardiovascular disease such as atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction.


With age, the skin becomes thin with decreased vascularity, making elderly people more liable for deep burns as well as decreased wound healing.

Elderly people have increased risk to develop contractures due to a higher percentage of deep burns. When the burn is deep a skin graft may be needed and as the skin thins with aging this will lead to a poor donor site as well as difficulty in healing for both the donor and the recipient site.

Elderly patients require more rehabilitation and the long term disability is greater due to the presence of the risk factors that may increase the severity of burn.

Elderly people should always make sure that the smoke detector is working, that there is someone that can be contacted easily in case of an emergency; and they are careful when cooking and handling hot objects.

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.

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