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Burn Treatment

Courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital at http://www.massgeneral.org/


  • Cope O and FW Rhinelander. “The problem of burn shock complicated by pulmonary damage.” Annals of Surgery 117 no. 6 (1943): 915-28. Courtesy of Massachusetts General HospitalFULL TEXT
  • Cannon B. “Plastic and reconstructive surgery at the MGH.” The Massachusetts General Hospital Surgical Society Newsletter  4 no.1 (Summer 2003): 5, 16-17. Courtesy of Massachusetts General Hospital.  FULL TEXT
Surface burn treatment was at the threshold of major changes. The standard practice of treatment was the tannic method. Tannic acid was applied to the burn surface to create a barrier on the skin to potential infection. The method was quite painful and did not always save the patient. This is the method primarily used on patients at Boston City Hospital (BCH). At Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), however, a new, experimental method referred to as the “soft technique” was used exclusively. With a team led by Dr. Oliver Cope, patients were wrapped with a thin layer of gauze covered with Vaseline. This much gentler treatment was less painful for the patient, it was easier to care for and oversee, and it kept the wounds as sterile as the tannic acid method did.  Patients survived using both methods, and MGH’s survival rate was favorably comparable to BCH’s. A month later, at BCH, thirty percent if the initial survivors had died, mostly from complications from their burns; at MGH, none of the initial survivors had died from their burn wounds. As a result, the use of tannic acid as a treatment for burns was phased out as the standard.
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