December 21, 2016
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Breast reconstruction patients at risk for burn injuries from heated devices

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Reconstructed breasts are at risk for injury from commonly used household warming devices due to decreased or absent sensation following surgery and patients should be counseled about such risks, according to study results published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open.

The researchers reviewed patients from their practice from the last year that had received burn injuries to their reconstructed breasts, and also searched for articles on PubMed for reports of burn injuries in reconstructed breasts.

Five patients were found in the practice’s records. Mean patient age was 46 years (range, 41.3-51.5 years). All patients had bilateral mastectomies with either an implant or expander in place at the time of injury.

One patient sustained a superficial partial thickness burn from an electric heating pad that resolved completely. The other four patients sustained fill thickness burns from a microwaveable heating pad, hot water bottle, hand warmer or an electric blanket.

The researchers found 15 articles that included a total of 35 patients that met their criteria. Including the practice patients, 27 patients sustained full thickness burns, 24 burns healed by secondary intention (11 of which were partial thickness burns), and 14 patients with full thickness burns required surgical treatment. Only one patient with a partial thickness burn required surgery.

The most common sources of thermal injury to reconstructed breasts out of the 40 patients were sunburn (26%), heating pad (21%) and hot water bottle (19%). Additional sources included hot beverage or container, hyperthermia device, hair dryer, sunlamp or other.

“Patients are not routinely made aware of the perils of these devices on their reconstructed breasts, and it may be helpful to furnish patients with a list of such devices to avoid,” the researchers wrote. “Patients should be notified that these risks are not just in the immediate postoperative period, and in fact do last for their lifetime.” – by Talitha Bennett

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.