Development of a computer monitoring system to improve the management of severely burned patients
Burn victims are treated using the exposure method in a specially designed intensive care room in which sterile air at a controlled temperature (25-38oC) is blown down on to the open wounds allowing them to dry and form an eschar. During this treatment, the patient's heat loss has to be maintained as low as possible to minimise thermal stress. This work involved the creation of an automated system to monitor patient heat loss, along with the development of a mathematical model to predict the optimum conditions for treatment. The monitoring system consists of a micro processor controlled interface board connected to an IBM PC which operates a multitasking operating system. The interface repetitively collects data from the monitoring equipment including an infra red camera, while the computer controls the rate of collection, calibration, storage and display of various environmental and physiological factors as well as the images obtained from the camera. The temperature distributions across burn wounds are complex and dependent on the depth and position of the wound as well as the time after injury The monitoring system allows the automatic collection of image data at regular intervals, with the sequence of images produced together with the environmental data recorded, being used in the calculation of body heat loss, and in the study of temperature changes during wound healing. A mathematical model has been developed, programmed and adapted to accurately model the responses of a group of 22 healthy subjects in the intensive care room over the range of ambient temperatures available. Further development was then made to enable the modelling of burned patients, with application to six patients studied in the room.