Frostbite is a high morbidity injury caused by soft tissue freezing, which can lead to digit necrosis requiring amputation. Rapid rewarming is a first line treatment method that involves placing affected digits into a warm water bath. This study aims to assess the clinical practices for frostbite at facilities outside of dedicated burn centers, and any impact these practices have on tissue salvage. Retrospective chart review at a single burn center identified frostbite patients admitted directly or as transfers over a seven-year period. Records were reviewed to identify initial treatment strategies. If given, time to thrombolytics from admit was noted. Tissue salvage rates were calculated from radiologically derived tissue at-risk scores and final amputation scores. One-hundred patients were transferred from outside facilities, and 108 were direct admissions (N=208). There was no significant difference in group demographics. Rapid rewarming was the initial treatment modality more commonly in direct admit patients (P=0.016). The use of rapid rewarming did not correlate with tissue salvage (P=0.112). Early use of thrombolytics had a positive impact on tissue salvage (P=0.003). Thrombolytics were given 1.2 hours earlier in direct admit patients (P=0.029), however there was no difference in tissue salvage rates between the groups (P=0.127). Efforts should focus on larger scale study to further assess the effectiveness of rapid rewarming. Although rapid rewarming did not significantly impact tissue salvage in this study, we continue to recommend its use over less studied treatment methods, and continue to view it as an important bridge to burn center transfer and administration of thrombolytic therapy.

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