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Local treatment of burns: Topical antimicrobial agents and dressings

Mayer Tenenhaus, MD, FACS
Hans-Oliver Rennekampff, MD
Section Editor
Marc G Jeschke, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
Kathryn A Collins, MD, PhD, FACS


Local treatment of burns includes cleansing and debridement, topical antimicrobial agents, and dressings. However, there is no consensus on which topical antimicrobial agent or dressing is optimal for burn wound coverage to prevent or control infection [1-3]. Minor burns (eg, sunburns) and superficial partial thickness burns with an intact epidermis generally do not require a topical antimicrobial agent or dressing [4,5].

The most frequently used topical antimicrobial agents and dressings for burns in adults and children will be reviewed here. The classification, emergent care of burns, and specialized management of burns to the hand are discussed elsewhere. (See "Classification of burn injury" and "Emergency care of moderate and severe thermal burns in adults" and "Emergency care of moderate and severe thermal burns in children" and "Treatment of minor thermal burns" and "Primary operative management of hand burns".)


Burn wound healing is a dynamic process, and local management may vary with the evolving clinical picture. Acute burn wounds should, if possible, be evaluated and treated by an experienced burn care provider. Nonoperative management includes cleansing, debridement, topical antimicrobial drugs, and dressing changes. This approach is ideal for patients with partial thickness burns and as the initial approach for patients with deep second-degree burns and full thickness burns.

Burn wound dressings serve three purposes [6]:

They absorb drainage

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 12, 2017.
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