University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Return to work after burn injury: a systematic review


Mason ST, Esselman P, Fraser R, Schomer K, Truitt A, Johnson K



Publication Info:

Journal of Burn Care & Research, 33(1):101-109


Consequences of major burn injuries often include losing the ability to engage in basic life functions such as work or employment. As this is a developing area of importance in burn care, the goal of this study was to perform a systematic review of the burn literature to ascertain a comprehensive view of the literature and identify return to work (RTW) factors where possible. A search was conducted and peer-reviewed studies that investigated predictors and barriers of returning to work of those with burn injuries, published since 1970 and written in English, were examined. From the 216 articles initially identified in the search, 26 studies were determined to meet inclusion criteria. Across studies, the mean age was 33.63 years, the mean TBSA was 18.94%, and the average length of stay was 20 days. After 3.3 years (41 months) postburn, 72.03% of previously employed participants had returned to some form of work. Important factors of RTW were identified as burn location, burn size, treatment variables, age, pain, psychosocial factors, job factors, and barriers. This systematic review suggests multiple conclusions. First, there is a significant need for attention to this area of study given that nearly 28% of all burn survivors never return to any form of employment. Second, the RTW literature is in need of coherent and consistent methodological practices, such as a sound system of measurement. Finally, this review calls for increased attention to interventions designed to assist survivors' ability to function in an employed capacity.

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