Burn Care at the Forefront

The University of Chicago Medicine Burn and Complex Wound Center is a specialized care program where patients who have sustained burn injuries or other severe wounds are treated by a unique, multidisciplinary team of experts.

Patients are cared for by a team of doctors, nurses and staff from plastic and reconstructive surgery, anesthesia and critical care. In addition to providing acute, life saving burn care, our unique multidisciplinary team has expertise in both reconstructive and critical care disciplines. Our plastic and reconstructive surgeons provide state-of-the-art surgical care to treat burns and complex wounds as well as burn scars and deformities.

Participation by nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, nutrition, respiratory therapy, child life therapy and pastoral care create an environment capable of providing expert comprehensive care for all of our patients. Additional critical care and surgery staff, as well as residents from anesthesia and surgery, participate in our round-the-clock patient care.

Our Burn Center is accredited by the American College of Surgeons and the American Burn Association. We have an eight-bed intensive care unit (ICU) dedicated to adult and pediatric burn patients. The Burn Center addresses all aspects of burns from transport to acute care to post-burn rehabilitation.

Our Burn Care Services

The Burn Center is fortunate to have a connection to a nearby Ronald McDonald House, which provides accommodations for the families of our out-of-town pediatric patients.
The Child Life and Family Education Program at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital provides educational, developmental and therapeutic services to children and their families. Child life specialists focus on each child's psychological and developmental needs in order to help them adjust to the hospital.

Children who suffer burn injuries have very specific emotional and psychological needs. Our child life specialists help children through hydrotherapy and dressing changes by providing distractions and introducing relaxation techniques. Through the use of teaching dolls, medical play and expressive therapies, child life specialists also help burn patients accept their injuries and develop a positive body image.
The Burn Center staff participates in community burn education and serves as an informational resource. Anesthesiologists, nurses and surgeons in the Burn Center teach local and regional Advanced Burn Life Support courses, as well as refresher courses, for the care of burn patients.

Our staff also participates in the annual Illinois Fire Safety Alliance Burn Camp, a summer program geared toward children with burn injuries. 

The Burn Center is instrumental in creating a burn annex with the city of Chicago and state of Illinois disaster plan. And our Burn Center nurses educate local emergency rooms on burn injuries.
Along with a specialized physician group, the Burn Center is also staffed by nurses who specialize in the care of pediatric and adult burn patients. Our nurses are experts in the evaluation and treatment of burn wounds and are trained in both critical care and specialized burn care. Many of our nursing staff participate in the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance Burn Camp and other activities associated with the American Burn Association.
Adequate nutrition is vital to maximizing recovery after burn injury. Every patient admitted to the burn center receives a thorough nutritional assessment to estimate optimal calorie, protein and fluid requirements. Nutrition is customized for each patient — providing high calorie, high protein feeding schedules. While the dietitian decides on the appropriate diets, formulas and routes of feeding, the staff provides useful information on the patient's appetite and progress.
Our physical and occupational therapists work closely with other Burn Center staff to evaluate the patient's functional abilities. They work to maximize the patient's level of mobility and ability to perform activities of daily living. Exercise, positioning and splinting techniques are used to minimize effects of burn scarring on physical function. In addition, UChicago Medicine's physical therapists also work collaboratively with the medical team to evaluate and optimize the healing environment for burn wounds.

In addition to specialized clinical care, the Burn Center serves as a source for several ongoing research projects, including:

  • Biology of scar formation and control
  • Electrical trauma
  • Molecular and cellular aspects of electrical injury
  • Impact of nutritional supplements to wound healing
  • Anesthetic pain management
  • Pediatric pain control
  • Aspects of pediatric post-traumatic stress disorder (in conjunction with a psychologist at La Rabida Children's Hospital.)
Burn Center social workers provide psychosocial assessment and counseling to burn patients and their families. For adults, particular attention is paid to creating a patient discharge plan that makes the most of patient safety and rehabilitation. In addition, our adult social work team provides counseling, crisis intervention and referrals to patients or family members in need. Our pediatric social worker provides children and their families with crisis intervention, counseling and referrals to community resources.

Our Burn Center is unique in having an in-house child protective services (CPS), headed by doctors who specialize in assessing for potential cases of abuse and neglect. The CPS team and Burn Center team collaborate closely with the CPS team providing a link between the medical team and outside state agencies.