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Published by moftasa
Phosphorus burns are a rarely encountered chemical burn, typically occurring in battle, industrial accidents, or from fireworks.
Death may result even with minimal burn areas. Early recognition of affected areas and adequate resuscitation is crucial. Amongst
our 2765 admissions between 1984 and 1998, 326 patients had chemical burns. Seven admissions were the result of phosphorus
burns. Our treatment protocol comprises 1% copper sulfate solution for neutralization and identification of phosphorus particles,
copious normal saline irrigation, keeping wounds moist with saline-soaked thick pads even during transportation, prompt
debridement of affected areas, porcine skin coverage or skin grafts for acute wound management, as well as intensive monitoring
of electrolytes and cardiac function in our burns center. Intravenous calcium gluconate is mandatory for correction of
hypocalcemia. Of the seven, one patient died from inhalation injury and the others were scheduled for sequential surgical
procedures for functional and cosmetic recovery. Cooling affected areas with tap water or normal saline, prompt removal of
phosphorus particles with mechanical debridement, intensive monitoring, and maintenance of electrolyte balance are critical steps
in initial management. Fluid resuscitation can be adjusted according to urine output. Early excision and skin autografts
summarize our phosphorus burn treatment protocol.
Phosphorus burns are a rarely encountered chemical burn, typically occurring in battle, industrial accidents, or from fireworks.
Death may result even with minimal burn areas. Early recognition of affected areas and adequate resuscitation is crucial. Amongst
our 2765 admissions between 1984 and 1998, 326 patients had chemical burns. Seven admissions were the result of phosphorus
burns. Our treatment protocol comprises 1% copper sulfate solution for neutralization and identification of phosphorus particles,
copious normal saline irrigation, keeping wounds moist with saline-soaked thick pads even during transportation, prompt
debridement of affected areas, porcine skin coverage or skin grafts for acute wound management, as well as intensive monitoring
of electrolytes and cardiac function in our burns center. Intravenous calcium gluconate is mandatory for correction of
hypocalcemia. Of the seven, one patient died from inhalation injury and the others were scheduled for sequential surgical
procedures for functional and cosmetic recovery. Cooling affected areas with tap water or normal saline, prompt removal of
phosphorus particles with mechanical debridement, intensive monitoring, and maintenance of electrolyte balance are critical steps
in initial management. Fluid resuscitation can be adjusted according to urine output. Early excision and skin autografts
summarize our phosphorus burn treatment protocol.

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09/29/2012

 
Burns 27 (2001) 492–497
The management of white phosphorus burns
Trong-Duo Chou
a,
*, Tz-Win Lee
b
, Shao-Liang Chen
a
, Yeou-Ming Tung
a
,Nai-Tz Dai
a
, Shyi-Gen Chen
a
, Chiu-Hong Lee
a
, Tim-Mo Chen
a
, Hsian-Jenn Wang
a
a
Di 
6
ision of Plastic Surgery
,
Tri 
-
Ser
6
ice General Hospital 
,
,
38 
-
10 
,
Sec
.
Ting 
-
Chow Road 
,
National Defense Medical Center
,
Taipei 
100 
,
Taiwan
,
ROC 
b
Di 
6
ision of Plastic Surgery
,
Yee
-
Zen Hospital 
,
Tao
-
Yang 
,
Taiwan
,
ROC 
Accepted 16 January 2001
Abstract
Phosphorus burns are a rarely encountered chemical burn, typically occurring in battle, industrial accidents, or from fireworks.Death may result even with minimal burn areas. Early recognition of affected areas and adequate resuscitation is crucial. Amongstour 2765 admissions between 1984 and 1998, 326 patients had chemical burns. Seven admissions were the result of phosphorusburns. Our treatment protocol comprises 1% copper sulfate solution for neutralization and identification of phosphorus particles,copious normal saline irrigation, keeping wounds moist with saline-soaked thick pads even during transportation, promptdebridement of affected areas, porcine skin coverage or skin grafts for acute wound management, as well as intensive monitoringof electrolytes and cardiac function in our burns center. Intravenous calcium gluconate is mandatory for correction of hypocalcemia. Of the seven, one patient died from inhalation injury and the others were scheduled for sequential surgicalprocedures for functional and cosmetic recovery. Cooling affected areas with tap water or normal saline, prompt removal of phosphorus particles with mechanical debridement, intensive monitoring, and maintenance of electrolyte balance are critical stepsin initial management. Fluid resuscitation can be adjusted according to urine output. Early excision and skin autograftssummarize our phosphorus burn treatment protocol. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd and ISBI. All rights reserved.
Keywords
Chemical burn; White phosphorus; Hypocalcemia; Copper sulfatewww.elsevier.com
/
locate
/
burns
1. Introduction
Chemical burns caused by white phosphorus arequite different to thermal burns. Such burns are typi-cally caused by combat mortar rounds, accidents in-volving fireworks, or accidents in agricultural plants.Such injuries combine the heat of chemical combustionwith the corrosiveness of phosphoric acid as the phos-phorus is oxygenated and hydrated in tissues. Withchemical burns, several factors in addition to intensityand duration of exposure to heat may determine thedepth of a burn, including the concentration of theagent and its reactions with tissues. These factors differamong agents. Phosphorus has several allotropic forms,namely white, red, and black, with the yellowish discol-oration often seen in white phosphorus due to impuri-ties. When exposed to air, white phosphorusspontaneously oxidizes to phosphorus pentoxide andhydrolyzes in water to form potentially corrosive phos-phoric acid, capable of producing chemical injury intissues. Adherence of phosphorus to clothing and skinwill often cause thermal injury because white phospho-rus ignites spontaneously if the temperature exceeds34°C [1,2]. The complexity of injury seen with phospho-rus burns can extend to the damage caused by grenadesgoing off in the hands of soldiers. Both phosphorusparticles and grenade fragments embed themselves inthe wound. If the temperature is high enough, spectacu-lar smoke will sometimes be seen as phosphorus parti-cles exposed to the air, ignite. Systemic effects includinghypoproteinemia, hematuria, oliguria, generalized pe-techiae, icterus, acute yellow atrophy of the liver,seizures, impaired glycogenolysis, hypocalcemia, andischemic-like ECG changes can arise quickly [3,6].General principles of treatment include identificationof chemical agents as well as prompt, appropriate first
* Corresponding author. Tel.:
+
886-2-87927195; fax:
+
886-2-87927194.
-
mail address
chou –td@hotmail.com (T.-D. Chou).0305-4179
/
01
/
$20.00 © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd and ISBI. All rights reserved.PII: S0305-4179(01)00003-1
 
.-
D
.
Chou et al 
.
Burns
27 (2001) 492 
– 
497 
493Table 1Patients having respiratory failure
a
. Demographic data of patients.Site involved Degree
/
TBSASex Operation ComplicationNo. Age(%)M II (11)III (17) Deb.
+
STSGAK amputation Fasciotomy Stump infection211 Face ExtremitiesFasciostomy Tracheotomy ExpiredIII (39)2 M Face Chest wall Trunk25 II
 –
III (6)M Deb.
+
STSG23 Face3Face II
 –
III (3.5) Change dressing4 22MDeb.
+
STSGII
 –
III (15)Neck Face Extremities185 M II
 –
III (9)F Deb.
+
STSG17 Face Neck Chest wall Both arms6Fasciotomy Deb.
+
STSG Biological dressing7 M 21 Face Extremities II (11)III (11.5)
a
STSG: split-thickness skin graft; Deb.: debridement.Fig. 1. The ongoing combustion of phosphorus over web space of hand with smoke generated (arrow) in the air.Fig. 2. The
rst web space was reconstructed with groin
ap (arrow), and the
ngers
tips were left self-reepithelization in several months.
 
.-
D
.
Chou et al 
.
Burns
27 (2001) 492 
– 
497 
494Fig. 3. After application of 1% copper sulfate solution for staining of the phosphorus particles retained on the skin (arrow).
between 50 and 100 ml
/
h. Nasotracheal intubation withmechanical ventilation support was indicated as patienthad respiratory failure (Table 1).
3. Results
Using our treatment protocol, three patients hadfasciotomies performed to prevent compartment syn-drome. One patient, who sustained inhalation injurydied of respiratory failure even after the attempts atresuscitation. Of the seven patients,
ve required skingrafts for resurfacing of burns, when wounds had nothealed within 14 days of presentation [7]. All donorsites healed without complication. Three patients hadassociated fractures of the extremities, and one requiredan above knee amputation after infectious complica-tions, and the infected stump underwent repeated de-bridements to allow wound closure.Hypocalcemia was a commonly encountered elec-trolyte disturbance and was corrected with intravenous10% calcium gluconate infusion. The six surviving pa-tients recovered well and were followed up for at least2 yr with reconstructive procedures to correct scarproblems.
Fig. 4. The whole face revealed generalized swelling with
sh-mouthappearance after phosphorus
ame burn, and nasotracheal intubationwas used for keeping airway patent.
aid. We have reviewed our phosphorus burn patientsbetween 1984 and 1998 to re
ne the protocols forsystemic treatment and wound care.
2. Materials and methods
Seven patients with phosphorus burns were admittedto the Tri-Service General Hospital burns center overthe period spanning January 1984 to December 1998.Of the seven, six were male, and all had suffered fromhand grenade,
rebomb, or other munition explosions.Thermal injury usually produced lesions over the ex-tremities and face with the depth of burn varyingbetween super
cial second degree to third degree andthe surface areas burn ranged between 7.5% and 39%(mean 17.6%). All seven patients had facial involvementand the accident had occurred during work. The treat-ment protocol followed the procedures mentioned inthe abstract. Phosphorus particles were removed withmechanical debridement after identi
cation with 1%copper sulfate solution, then irrigating the wounds withcopious normal saline or distilled water. Patients under-went
uid resuscitation after reaching hospital with theamount adjusted according to urine output, ranging

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