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Why are burn injuries so often fatal?

On Behalf of | Mar 1, 2024 | Burn Injury

Burn injuries are among the most serious injuries that people can suffer in accidents. Even relatively minor burn injuries can have devastating long-term consequences – but many don’t survive.

Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that burn injuries are all too often fatal. Here’s why:

Tissue damage

While the odds of someone’s survival with burn injuries can vary according to their age, their prior health history and the treatment they receive, the death rate for those with burns on 70% of their body or higher can be as high as 97.8%. Essentially, the skin is the body’s largest organ, and widespread burns compromise its ability to function, and that leads to a cascade of other issues.


Human skin forms a barrier against infection – and a burn is a massive open wound that lets in bacteria and other pathogens. Infection can spread rapidly, leading to a condition called sepsis, which is common in burn victims. Once sepsis starts, it can be very difficult for a patient to survive.

Respiratory distress

Burn injuries can also be internal. The inhalation of toxic fumes from items that are burned and hot gasses can damage a victim’s throat and lungs, leading to severe respiratory distress syndromes. This is another contributor to the high mortality rates among burn victims.

Fluid and electrolyte imbalance

The loss of fluids through damaged skin, combined with increased fluids needed to manage the inflammatory response, can lead to dehydration and result in hypovolemic shock. This shock can lead to heart attacks and multi-organ failure.

Psychological shock 

Catastrophic injuries can be deeply shocking, and burn victims who are aware of their condition may simply be emotionally overwhelmed. Losing the will to fight can be a big factor in their ability to survive.

If your loved one has serious burn injuries or died from burn injuries in a preventable fire, legal guidance can help you explore all your available options.