Burn injury, due to subthermal, suprathermal, chemical, or electrical causes, is a complex physiological phenomenon. It represents a formidable public health problem in both industrialized and emerging nations. In the United States, burn injury is the third leading cause of injury death and the incidence of serious burn injury is the highest of all industrialized countries. In addition to the almost 10 000 burn victims who die each year in the United States, over 100 000 require prolonged hospital care or rehabilitation. The cost to society of the long-term morbidity from loss of physical function or associated psychological and cosmetic impairment is incalculable.

The complexity of burn injury requires an understanding of cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, and immunological derangements. Moreover, burn injury is a dynamic rather than static process, and as such the physiological and biochemical changes in the early and later stages may differ.

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