The National Burn Service is part of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Middlemore Hospital and serves as the Regional Burn Unit for the same catchment area as the Department of Plastic Surgery (north of the Bombay Hills). 

Incorporated on-site is the National Burn Centre (NBC) which cares for the most severe burn injured patients from both local region and around the country. The National Burns Centre is part of a larger burn care network with existing regional burn treatment facilities in Christchurch, Hutt Valley and Waikato. Staff work closely with these units to manage referrals.

Middlemore’s state-of-the art National Burn Centre opened on Friday 16 June 2006. The facility provides treatment and rehabilitation for some of New Zealand’s most severe burn patients.

What is a burn?

A burn can be caused by heat (e.g. hot water, fire or contact with hot objects), electricity, radiation or chemicals. Skin is typically damaged, although deeper burns can involve underlying fat and muscle. The three important factors in determining the seriousness of a burn are (1) the size of the burn, (2) the depth of the burn (see below) and (3) its location.

Small superficial burns typically only require pain relief and the appropriate dressing to allow spontaneous healing and can be managed at home with support. Larger or deeper burns may require admission into hospital for specialist treatment.

Burn injuries can be devastating and even life-threatening. Even a small burn, not treated well, can result in life-long scarring and/or disability. Treatment of burns, even minor ones, can involve a whole team of specialists dedicated to restoring form and function.

Modern treatment of burn injuries involves early assessment and treatment aimed at getting the wound spontaneously healed within two to three weeks to minimise scarring. At times this can be done with dressings alone. At other times surgery is required to achieve healing with minimal scarring.

Follow-up outpatient appointments with members of the burn team to achieve the goal of maximising return of function and minimising scarring and disability may take weeks or months, even years.

Immediate first aid treatment begins with appropriate first aid:
  • Stop the burning process
  • Remove any easily-removable affected clothing 
  • Cool the burn with cool running water for 20 minutes, then keep the area warm and dry. Ice should not be used on the burn wound.
  • Keep the patient warm at all times 
  • Seek medical advice for wounds that blister or if there are any concerns.

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