Terminology and methods used to differentiate injury intent of hospital burn patients in South Asia: Results from a systematic scoping review

Document Type

Review Article


Psychiatry; Brain and Mind Institute


Introduction: A key component in the classification of all injury types is to differentiate whether the injury was deliberately inflicted and by whom, commonly known as "intent" in the surveillance literature. These data guide patient care and inform surveillance strategies. South Asia is believed to have the greatest number of intentional burn injuries, but national surveillance data is not disaggregated by injury intent. Scientific literature can be used for injury surveillance where national data collection does not exist. In order to synthesise research findings, it is essential to assess the potential impact of misclassification bias. We therefore conducted a systematic scoping review to understand terminology and methods used to differentiate injury intent of hospital burn patients in South Asia.
Methods: We followed the methods in our registered protocol (https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/DCYNQ). Studies met defined population, concept, context, and study design criteria. The databases Embase, MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycInfo, and PakMediNet were searched. Two reviewers independently screened results. Data were extracted in a standardised manner and verified. The rigour of the method used to differentiate injury intent was appraised.
Results: 1435 articles were screened. Of these, 89 met our inclusion criteria. Most articles were from India and Pakistan, and used an observational study design. There were 14 stem terms used in the articles. The most common was "cause". There were 40 classifier terms. The most common were "accident", "suicide", and "homicide". Few articles defined these terms. The method used to differentiate injury intent was only described explicitly in 17% of articles and the rigour of the methods used were low. Where methods of differentiation were described, they appear to be based on patient or family report rather than multidisciplinary assessment.
Conclusion: The heterogeneity in terms, lack of definitions, and limited investigation of injury intent means this variable is likely to be prone to misclassification bias. We strongly recommend that the global burn community unites to develop a common data element, including definitions and methods of assessment, for the concept of burn injury intent to enable more reliable data collection practices and interstudy comparisons.


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