We have Opened a New Hospital! Click here to learn more.

Home Breadcrumb 
	Arrow Arizona Burn Center - Valleywise Health Breadcrumb 
	Arrow Arizona’s 2023 Extreme Heat Wave Led to Record Number of Burn Injuries

Arizona’s 2023 Extreme Heat Wave Led to Record Number of Burn Injuries

136 patients hospitalized in 2023 from contact burns

PHOENIX (June 11, 2024) – The Diane & Bruce Halle Arizona Burn Center – Valleywise Health experienced a dramatic rise in the number of admissions from heat-related burn injuries in June, July and August of last year, the burn center reports.

During the three-month period, 136 patients were admitted with severe burns, up from 85 in 2022. Ten percent, or 14 patients, died from their injuries.

The average burn size was 6.5 percent; the largest was 33 percent. Even though most patients did not have large burns, many were severely ill:

  • 34 percent required ICU care. The average number of ICU days was 8 and as many as 34 days.
  • On average, patients remained hospitalized for 12 days.
  • Many required multiple surgeries, including skin grafts.
  • Of 116 patients drug tested, 12 percent were positive for methamphetamines/amphetamines.

“Last year’s record heat wave brought an alarming number of patients with life-threatening burns,” said Dr. Kevin Foster, Burn Center Director. He noted it only takes seconds of exposure to hot outdoor surfaces like pavement or concrete to cause serious burns. Babies, young children and seniors are especially vulnerable.

“External surface temperatures can reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and deep cutaneous burns can happen with only brief contact,” Foster said. “Exposure often occurs in patients with impairments that prevent them from quickly removing themselves from such contact, leading to severe injury.”

This summer, burn surgeons will be better equipped to handle another wave of burn contact patients with the opening of the new Diane & Bruce Halle Arizona Burn Center June 13. The new burn center, occupying the fourth floor of the new Vallleywise Health Medical Center, is nearly three times larger than the legacy building.

Last year’s prolonged heat wave led to an unprecedented wave of burn patients during the summer months, Foster said. Every single bed in the burn center was full.

“The new Burn Center will include 16 adult intensive care beds, 24 adult acute care beds, and 10 pediatric ICU/acute care beds, a playroom for children with burn injuries and a large wellness area for physical and occupational therapy, and psychological therapy” Foster said. “The center also includes space for the outpatient and clinic and burn emergency department.”

The age range of those treated in 2023 was from 1 to 93, with the average age of 56. Fifty-eight percent were white; 18% Latino; 11% Black and 10% Native American.. Twenty-one were unsheltered.

Many of the patients also had heat stroke – 5 percent had body temperatures of 105 degrees F or higher. The highest temperature was 107.6 and the lowest was 90.9.

Many of those who survived faced significant long-term challenges:

  • The majority, 59 percent, required additional care and were discharged to another facility for post-acute care.
  • 24 percent were able to return home at time of discharge.
  • Six percent left the hospital against medical advice.

About Valleywise Health

Located in Phoenix, Arizona, Valleywise Health has a proud tradition of being the community safety net health care system with a mission and commitment to serving the underserved. Valleywise Health consists of Valleywise Health Medical Center, Arizona’s only public teaching hospital, Level 1 trauma center with ability to treat adults and children and Arizona’s only nationally verified Burn Center serving the entire Southwestern United States. Other services include primary HIV care at the McDowell and Peoria health centers, the Refugee Women’s Health Clinic, three behavioral health centers, and 11 community health centers. To learn more, please visit ValleywiseHealth.org.

Back to Top
Change your language: