OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to identify the prevalence and development of after burn joint limitation by scar contracture.

METHODS: In 2011-2012, consecutive patients were enrolled in this prospective multi center cohort study. Eligible were all patients admitted to the 2 participating Dutch Burn Centers with acute burns across or adjacent to the neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee and ankle. Passive range of motion was measured in week 3 and subsequently every 3 weeks until discharge, on discharge from the hospital and during follow-up at the outpatient clinic at 3-6-9-12 months after burn.

RESULTS: Limited range of motion of non-operated burned joints (N = 195) was restored back to normal within 6-9 months. From the operated burned joints (N = 353), 58.6% demonstrated a limited range of motion at 3-6 weeks declining to 20.9% at 12 months. The upper part of the body was affected more often by scar contracture than the lower part. At 12 months, the shoulder was limited most often (51.3%) and the hip least often (0%). Reconstructive surgery was performed in 13.3% of the operated burned joints.

CONCLUSIONS: Persistent joint limitations at 12 months were exclusively present in joints that needed skin grafting for rapid wound closure. The upper part of the body was more prone to contracture formation than the lower part, from which the shoulder was most often involved. More than half of the limited range of motion seen in the acute phase, resolved in the long term. The need for reconstructive surgery was less than expected.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783-790
JournalBurns : journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • burn injuries
  • scars


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