The healing process after a burn can be long and painful, pushing the victim to his or her physical limits before the hospital signs for a release. Tending to burn wounds is an immensely important part of recovery, but many people don’t realize that nutrition is almost equally as important. Without the right diet during recovery, a burn victim’s chances of healing drop drastically.
Estimating a Burn Victim’s Nutritional Needs
When the body sustains a serious burn, its metabolic rate drastically increases – leading to significant and harmful weight loss. An acute burn victim can experience a resting metabolic rate of about 180% of normal basal metabolic rate. These victims need upward of 5,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight.
Acute burn victims can experience losses of about 25% without proper nutritional support. Doctors associate losses exceeding 10% of preadmission weight with delayed healing and immunity impairments. If a doctor fails to provide for the caloric needs of a burn victim accurately, he or she may suffer additional illnesses due to a weakened immune system.
Providing proper nutrition to burn victims is not an exact science. Doctors and nutritionists still strive to perfect the process. It’s difficult to determine the nutritional needs of each burn patient since needs fluctuate depending on the person and the injury’s severity. Doctors use the Harris-Benedict equation or Galveston formula to calculate a patient’s caloric needs with enough accuracy.
The Harris-Benedict equation calculates the needs of adult burn victims, while the Galveston formula is for child victims. A third formula, the Curreri formula, addresses caloric needs of adults and children. With these equations, doctors can gain a sense of how many calories a burn victim requires to prevent significant weight loss. New research, however, shows that these formulas overestimate the caloric needs by up to 150%.
It’s important for doctors to carefully monitor a patient’s nutritional condition throughout the healing process instead of assuming the equation is correctly providing for the patient’s needs. Patients may need lesser or greater caloric intake than the equation came up with to maintain a healthy weight, depending on injuries and body types.
Why Burn Victims Need Special Diets
The body loses proteins through wounds and must make up for the energy spent with calories – particularly glucose. Burn wounds must break down glucose for energy, and your body cannot use an alternate source. Doctors must also give burn victims a certain amount of fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Doctors believe vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc promote wound healing by limiting oxidative damage to the tissues.
As difficult as it is for doctors to estimate the caloric intake and nutrients an adult burn victim needs, it’s more difficult to estimate nutrition for a child burn victim. Children need special accommodations to make up for lean body mass loss and the depletion of protein to counteract impaired immunity and weight loss. Feedings need to take place within the first 24 to 48 hours after a hospital admits a child for burn injuries.
What if My Doctor Failed to Provide for My Nutritional Needs?
If you were a burn victim who suffered through a difficult recovery due to malnutrition, you may have a case of medical malpractice. Doctors and dietitians have a duty to provide for the reasonable care of patients, including burn victims who need specialized diets. If your doctor negligently calculated your caloric intake, leading to your condition worsening, you may be able to sue for compensation.
Contact Liljegren Law Group to discuss your case with an attorney in a free case evaluation. We’ll be able to assess if you have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, and how to proceed with filing a case.