Dr. Marc Jeschke (Photograph by Doug Nicholson)
In spite of the many advances in burn care in the last several decades, low survival rates for elderly burn patients have remained virtually unchanged. In a world-first study, Dr. Marc Jeschke, director of the Ross Tilley Burn Centre at Sunnybrook, and his research team set out to identify the reasons why the elderly are much less likely to survive a burn injury than younger adults.
“We found the elderly did not have the same immune response as younger adults, which is necessary to fight disease and injury. Their bodies lack some of the essential stem cells that are important for skin healing,” says Dr. Jeschke.
The researchers found the elderly to have a higher death rate, more complex preexisting medical conditions, a higher risk of developing multiorgan failure and a significantly longer hospital stay than younger adults.
The study, which analyzed 1,461 patients admitted to Sunnybrook’s burn centre between 2006 and 2015, also found that metabolic responses seemed to be reversed. “While younger patients moved into a state of less stress and less hyper metabolism over time, elderly patients showed the exact opposite trajectory,” says Dr. Jeschke.
The researchers hope their findings will encourage others to continue studying how outcomes of elderly burn patients can be improved. “By learning the major differences that come with this age group, we will be able to better help elderly people who have been subjected to burn injuries,” says Dr. Saeid Amini-Nik, junior scientist at the Sunnybrook Research Institute