Mapping major burns to help keep wounded warriors alive

Statistics show more than 2,500 U.S. troops have been burned while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Keeping track of those injuries and how they're healing used to involve a very low-tech process, but a new high-tech system could help save lives.
"I think I've had like 60 different surgeries," said Mario Lopez.

His vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

"I got burned over 54 percent of my body," he added.

Until recently, military medical professionals used paper and colored pencils to keep track of troops' burns.

"Kinda takes us back to our elementary school days."

Wound Care Coordinator CD Peterson says it was the standard but leaves room for error.

Now wound-flow is becoming the new standard.

"It gives us a more accurate calculation," explains Peterson.

With a laptop or tablet, caregivers color in the degree of the burn and how much of the body is burned.

The percentage is automatically calculated.

All the information is updated as patients progress. Wound-Flow has helped find a pattern that shows if a patient is not healing at a certain rate after 21 days

"Those patients will have an extremely high mortality rate," says Joese Salinas, U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research.

Now, therapies can be adjusted if that pattern is spotted and hopefully...

"...we save more patients that way," says Peterson.

Right now, Wound-Flow is only being used at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, which is home to one of the best burn centers in the country.

Developers say the program is constantly being tweaked to make it better.

There are also plans to add gunshot and knife wound mapping capabilities to the program.


REPORT: MB # 3648

BACKGROUND: With over 2,500 U.S. troops suffering from burn injuries while they were in Iraq and Afghanistan, the medical community is making needed advances in burn care. Military members have who have combat burn injuries can suffer some of the most intense and prolonged types of pain imaginable. They need daily care to clean the wound and daily physical therapy. Maj. Peter DeSocio, an anesthesiologist with the burn center at Brooke Army Medical Center, says that despite the use of strong painkillers, most of the patients he sees report severe to excruciating pain during wound care. (Source:

EASING PAIN: One of the newer advances for burn victims is an interactive video game that can be used to ease the pain and stress during burn wound treatment. A group of military patients took part in a study using "SnowWorld," a three-dimensional video game that employs high-tech goggles and earphones, allowing patients to immerse themselves in the game experience. The game draws them into the action as they glide through the icy world of frozen mountains and canyons. The frosty experience allows the wounded warrior to focus on something other than the excruciating pain they are going through. "Not having to see the burn wounds helps keep them from thinking about it so much, or thinking about where and when the injuries happened to them. Used as a complementary treatment, the VR game helps them relieve the stress of knowing the treatment is coming and gets them through their treatment better. It makes it a more tolerable experience," Maj. DeSocio was quoted as saying. (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Accurate mapping and tracking of burn injuries is critical for creating and executing an effective treatment plan for burn patients. Most burn mapping procedures are paper-based. It can lead to variable treatment across patients and providers. Now a product developed at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is helping replace the out dated process. WoundFlow is an electronic mapping software program used at the Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center to determine the percentage of the total body surface area burns and sounds on patients and is also a tool used to determine burn care management. "WoundFlow was developed because of a need. It was designed to help to improve burn care by providing burn teams with a tool that lets them track patients' progression in the burn intensive care unit (BICU) a lot more accurately. It also lets you upload images," Jose Salinas, PhD, Task Area Manager for Comprehensive Intensive Care Research U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, was quoted as saying.

Before this technology, photos of the patient were taken and those photos would get archived and the clinician would never see them again. WoundFlow replaced the pencil and paper mapping diagram. Digital photos and bronchoscope images of the lungs and trachea can be uploaded during the mapping of the patients. Also, clinicians can use different color to depict the degree of the burns and other wounds. When the electronic diagram has been completed, WoundFlow does the math to determine the total body surface area. As the burns heal, the clinicians can then update the diagram to track the heal rate. (Source:

Bottom of Form

Steven Galvan
Public Affairs Officer
U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research
(210) 539-5470

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Céline McArthur at

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
WNDU - Channel 16 54516 State Road 933 South Bend, IN 46637 Front Desk: 574-284-3000 Newsroom: 574-284-3016 Email:
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 216044761 -
Gray Television, Inc.