South African Journal of Surgery
On-line version ISSN 2078-5151
Print version ISSN 0038-2361
BACKGROUND: Peri-anal burns are common in children. Continual exposure to enteric organisms may lead to a contaminated burn wound, invasive sepsis, graft loss, scar contracture, anal and urinary malfunction, and delayed discharge from hospital. Use of a temporary diverting colostomy has been advocated to reduce complications. OBJECTIVES: To review the incidence, indications, methods, bacteriology, therapeutic effects and outcomes of colostomy for peri-anal burns. METHODS: A prospective study of children with peri-anal burns and stomas over a 17-year period. Prophylactic or therapeutic faecal diversion was achieved by temporary, divided sigmoid end-colostomy with Hartmann's closure of the distal end. RESULTS: Between 1995 and 2012, 45 children with peri-anal burns received a colostomy. The mean total body surface area burned was 35% (range 3 - 80%). There were 28 flame burns, 16 fluid burns and 1 contact burn. Prophylactic colostomies were performed in 29 children, on average on day 6 after admission, and therapeutic colostomies to counteract deep wound infection and septicaemia in 16 patients, on average on day 24. In all but 2 cases there was a marked improvement in clinical appearance, graft take and healing. The bacterial profile changed from gut-derived organisms to Pseudomonas aeruginosa or no pathogens. Complications occurred in 5 patients (11.1%). Three stomas required manual reduction. Two children died of established septic shock, compounded by stomal dehiscence in 1 case. Reversal of the colostomy was performed on average at 4 months. CONCLUSION: Diverting colostomy has therapeutic advantages in a select group of paediatric burns patients in whom continual faecal soiling poses a threat to both graft and life.