Inhalational Injury Secondary to House Fire
This scenario was developed to educate emergency medicine residents on the diagnosis and management of patients with an inhalational airway injury secondary to a house fire.
Burn injuries are a common occurrence encountered by the emergency physician. According to the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, around 371,000 patients were treated in emergency departments for fire or burn injuries across the United States in 2020. This represents around 1% of emergency department visits related to injury, poisoning, or adverse effects.1 One of the most dangerous and time critical aspects of managing severely burned patients is inhalation injury. Inhalation injury is a relatively vague term which may refer to pulmonary exposure to a wide range of chemicals in various forms. In the context of burn patients, this is most often smoke exposure. It is critical that the emergency medicine provider rapidly identifies the potential for an inhalational injury in order to determine the need for definitive airway management. It is also important that the provider has the necessary skills and systematic approach to manage what is likely to be a difficult airway. Furthermore, providers must then have the knowledge of how to best manage and resuscitate these severely burned patients post-intubation.
At the conclusion of the simulation session, learners will be able to: 1) recognize the indications for intubation in a thermal burn/inhalation injury patient; 2) develop a systematic approach to an inhalational injury airway; and 3) recognize indications for transfer to burn center.
This session was conducted using high-fidelity simulation, followed by a debriefing session and lecture on the diagnosis, differential diagnosis, and management of inhalational airway injury secondary to a house fire. Debriefing methods may be left to the discretion of participants, but the authors have utilized advocacy-inquiry techniques. This scenario may also be run as an oral board case.
Our residents are provided a survey at the completion of the debriefing session so they may rate different aspects of the simulation, as well as provide qualitative feedback on the scenario. The local institution’s simulation center’s electronic feedback form is based on the Center of Medical Simulation’s Debriefing Assessment for Simulation in Healthcare (DASH) Student Version Short Form2 with the inclusion of required qualitative feedback if an element was scored less than a 6 or 7.
Nine learners completed a feedback form. This session received all 6 & 7 scores (consistently effective/very good and extremely effective/outstanding, respectively) other than one isolated 5 score.
This is a cost-effective method for reviewing inhalational airway injury diagnosis and management. The case may be modified for targeted audiences, expected resources, and learning objectives, such as removal of a bronchoscope availability in settings which are expected to be resource-limited. Some readers may choose to focus on other aspects of burn management instead of airway securement such as cyanide and/or carbon monoxide toxicity. We encourage readers to limit the number of learning objectives because airway algorithms and troubleshooting for this scenario was a rich, stand-alone debriefing. There was not enough time to review in detail all nuanced aspects of the burned patient, including: Lund-Browder versus rule of 9’s, modified Brooke versus Parkland formulas, indications for and completion of escharotomies, and/or identification and treatment of cyanide and carbon monoxide toxicity.
Medical simulation, burns, airway emergencies, emergency medicine.