PURPOSE: To identify and quantify the health related concepts contained in the most common outcome instruments used in adult burn care, and to compare the content of these instruments based on their linkage to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). The ICF has been validated as a reference tool by the World Health Organization and is a framework that incorporates physical, emotional, environmental and social aspects of daily functioning. METHODS: Electronic searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE CINAHL, PsychINFO and the Cochrane Library from 2003 onwards were carried out using a predetermined search strategy. Specific characteristics of the included studies and data pertaining to the outcome instruments were extracted. Two reviewers independently categorised the underlying concepts contained in the most commonly used outcome measures and linked them to ICF categories using standardised linkage rules. RESULTS: Out of a total 132 included studies, 151 outcome instruments were identified. Of these, 14 frequently used generic and burn-specific instruments were selected for linkage to the ICF. From the 381 items contained in the 14 instruments, 356 concepts were extracted and subsequently linked to 99 ICF categories. Nearly 46% of the concepts were linked to body function and 20% to activities and participation, whereas only a few concepts were formally linked to health condition, body structures and personal or environmental factors. CONCLUSION: The ICF proved highly useful for the content comparison of frequently used generic and burn-specific instruments. The results may provide clinicians and researchers with new insights when selecting health-status measures for clinical studies in those with burn injury.