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The Rule of Nines

Nines A call from the police scanner caught my attention tonight. A 5-year-old girl near Goulds was burned by scalding water, requiring paramedics to fly her to the nearest trauma center.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Eddy Ballester said the burns covered at least 18 percent of the girl's body.

Eighteen percent. Seems arbitrary to come up with such a specific figure so quickly, and it wasn't the first time I've seen 18 percent used to describe burn coverage. So I Googled it.

Turns out, it's not arbitrary at all. One of the first things paramedics do when evaluating burn victims is determine how much of the body is affected.

A fast way to evaluate scope of burns is by using the Rule of Nines, described in some detail here at a Minnesota burn center's website.

As you see on the left, the body is divided into areas that make up either 9 or 18 percent of total body area: The head, right arm and left arm are each 9 percent, each leg is 18 percent, and the back and chest are each 18 percent. That adds up to 99 percent, and the difference is rounded out by the hands, which are each considered 1 percent of total body area.

So, if your right leg is burned, a quick medical assessment will indicate you have burns covering about 18 percent of your body.

Ain't medicine interesting?

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