Health Team

Study: How far are you from a burn center?

Posted October 27, 2009 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2009 8:08 p.m. EDT

Burn injuries cause more than 40,000 hospitalizations a year in the U.S., but only 22 percent of patients are admitted to American Burn Association-verified burn centers for treatment.

New research looked at how accessible the highly specialized care required for burn treatment really is for patients.

"Burn care requires specialized equipment, specialized personnel, and those are typically best provided in a burn center where there's experience among people caring for patients and taking care of burn injuries,” said Dr. Matthew Klein with the University of Washington Burn Center.

Researchers looked at how many people could reach the 51 verified burn care centers in the U.S. by ambulance or helicopter in one or two hours. The list includes The North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals and Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 46 percent of the population lived within two hours by ground. Seventy-nine percent could reach burn centers within two hours by air transport. However, geographically, access varied widely by state and region.

“There is some disparity based on where you live in this country in terms of how readily available a verified burn center would be to you if you were to sustain a burn injury,” Klein said.

Access to verified burn centers was the highest in the Northeast and lowest in the South. There were 20 states where the entire population had access within two hours by air transport and six states where no one did.