Photographic assessment of burn size and depth: reliability and validity

M J Hop, C M Moues, K Bogomolova, M K Nieuwenhuis, I M M H Oen, E Middelkoop, R S Breederveld, M E van Baar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the reliability and validity of using photographs of burns to assess both burn size and depth. Method: Fifty randomly selected photographs taken on day 0-1 post burn were assessed by seven burn experts and eight referring physicians. Inter-rater reliability in both groups (experts vs. referrers) was calculated. The validity of burn size assessment was calculated using live assessment as the gold standard, and of burn depth using clinical assessment in combination with laser Doppler imaging as the gold standard. The validity of the photographically- assessed indication for surgery was calculated using laser Doppler imaging and actual treatment as the gold standard. Finally, agreement in referral indication was calculated. Results: Using photographs, burn size could be assessed reliably and validly by experts (ICCs of 0.83 and 0.87), but not by referrers (ICCs of 0.68 and 0.78). Photographic assessment of burn depth was neither reliable nor valid, with ICCs respectively of 0.38 and 0.28 for experts and 0.24 and 0.13 for referrers. The indication for surgery could also not be assessed validly. Agreement between assessors regarding referral indication was low. Conclusion: Burn size, but not burn depth, can be assessed reliably and validly by experts using photographs of the burn wound. We recommend exploring other forms of telemedicine, like live interactive video, to investigate whether this leads to an improved burn depth assessment where clinical assessment is not possible. © 2014 MA Healthcare LTD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-152
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of wound care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescent
  • adult
  • aged
  • aged, 80 and over
  • burns
  • children
  • female
  • infants
  • laser-doppler flowmetry
  • male
  • middle aged
  • photographs
  • wound dept
  • toddlers
  • reproducibility of results
  • telemedicine


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