Background: In patients with burns, an early accurate diagnosis of burn depth facilitates optimal treatment. Laser Doppler imaging combined with clinical assessment leads to an accurate estimate of burn depth. However, the actual effects of the introduction of laser Doppler imaging on therapeutic decisions, clinical outcomes, and costs are unknown. Methods: A randomized controlled trial was conducted in the Dutch burn centers, including 202 patients with burns of indeterminate depth. In the standard care group, estimation of burn depth was based on clinical assessment only; in the laser Doppler imaging group, clinical assessment and laser Doppler imaging were combined. Primary outcome was time to wound healing. Furthermore, therapeutic decisions and cost-effectiveness were analyzed. Results: Mean time to wound healing was 14.3 days (95 percent CI, 12.8 to 15.9 days) in the laser Doppler imaging group and 15.5 days (95 percent CI, 13.9 to 17.2 days) in the standard care group (p = 0.258). On the day of randomization, clinicians decided significantly more often on operative or nonoperative treatment in the laser Doppler imaging group (p < 0.001), instead of postponing their treatment choice. Analyses in a subgroup of admitted patients requiring surgery showed a significant earlier decision for surgery and a shorter wound healing time in the laser Doppler imaging group. Mean total costs per patient were comparable in both groups. Conclusions: Laser Doppler imaging improved therapeutic decisions. It resulted in a shorter wound healing time in the subgroup of admitted patients requiring surgery and has the potential for cost savings of €875 per scanned patient.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166e-176e
JournalPlastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


  • adolescent
  • adult
  • aged
  • 80 and over
  • burn units
  • burns/diagnosis
  • child
  • preschool
  • cost-benefit analysis
  • female
  • follow-up studies
  • health care costs
  • humans
  • infant
  • newborn
  • laser-doppler flowmetry/economics
  • male
  • middle aged
  • Netherlands
  • retrospective studies
  • skin transplantation/methods
  • time factors
  • trauma severity indices
  • young adult


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