BACKGROUND: Phosphorus burns are rarely encountered in usual clinical practice and occur mostly in military and industrial settings. However, these burns can be fatal, even with minimal burn area, and are often associated with prolonged hospitalisation.
OBJECTIVES: To summarise the evidence of effects (beneficial and harmful) of all interventions for treating people with phosphorus burns.
SEARCH METHODS: We searched the Cochrane Wounds Group Specialised Register (searched 30 September 2011); the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2011, Issue 3); Ovid OLDMEDLINE (1947 to 1965); Ovid MEDLINE (1950 to September Week 3 2011); Ovid MEDLINE (In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations 29 September 2011); Ovid EMBASE (1980 to 2011 Week 38); EBSCO CINAHL (1982 to 23 September 2011) and Conference Proceedings Citation Index - Science (CPCI-S) (1990 to 30 September 2011).
SELECTION CRITERIA: Any comparisons of different ways of managing phosphorus burns including, but not restricted, to randomised trials.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We found two non-randomised comparative studies, both comparing patients treated with and without copper sulphate.
MAIN RESULTS: These two comparative studies provide no evidence to support the use of copper sulphate in managing phosphorus burns. Indeed the small amount of available evidence suggests that it may be harmful.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: First aid for phosphorus burns involves the common sense measures of acting promptly to remove the patient's clothes, irrigating the wound(s) with water or saline continuously, and removing phosphorus particles. There is no evidence that using copper sulphate to assist visualisation of phosphorus particles for removal is associated with better outcome, and some evidence that systemic absorption of copper sulphate may be harmful. We have so far been unable to identify any other comparisons relevant to informing other aspects of the care of patients with phosphorus burns. Future versions of this review will take account of information in articles published in languages other than English, which may contain additional evidence based on treatment comparisons.