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Keywords:

  • burns;
  • literature review;
  • nursing;
  • pain management;
  • relaxation technique;
  • wound care

Aim.  This paper presents a literature review examining the implications of previous research in order to make evidence-based decisions about the possible use of breathing exercises with adult patients with burns for pain management during wound care.

Background.  Adult patients with burns experience pain during wound care despite pharmacological interventions. Additional interventions are needed to improve the effectiveness of pain management. Relaxation techniques can be considered, for example breathing exercises, music and distraction. A simple breathing relaxation technique is especially relevant because it involves no risk, is easy and quick to learn, equipment does not need to be purchased and it can be employed immediately by the often exhausted and ill patient. However, the effect of breathing exercises on procedural pain during burn wound care has not been investigated.

Method.  The CINAHL, PubMed and Cochrane databases were searched in 2004 in order to answer two questions: are breathing exercises effective in the management of procedural pain in adult burn patients, and what are the implications of previous investigations for future research concerning pain reduction in adult patients with burns during wound care? Eleven papers were included in the review.

Findings.  The effect of breathing exercises for pain management in patients with burns has not been investigated. Prior to undertaking an effect study, additional basic research is needed. The number of sessions necessary to learn to use the technique should be clarified. A valid and reliable instrument to assess relaxation must be developed. The adequacy of the proposed data collection procedure needs to be assessed.

Conclusion.  It is not possible at this time to base decisions about the use of breathing exercises during wound care in adult patients with burns on research specific to the procedure and patient group. The most suitable relaxation technique for future investigation is concentration on breathing, in combination with jaw relaxation.