n South African Medical Journal - The wrong and wounding road : paediatric polytrauma admitted to a level 1 trauma intensive care unit over a 5-year period : research




Injury in childhood is a major cause of potentially preventable morbidity and mortality. In order to implement effective preventive strategies, epidemiological data on mechanisms of injury and outcome are essential.

To assess the causation, severity of injury, morbidity and mortality of paediatric trauma admitted to a level 1 trauma intensive care unit (TICU).
Children were defined as being < 16 years of age. The study covered the 5-year period January 2008 - December 2012. Eligible patients were identified from a prospective database maintained in the level 1 TICU at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, Durban,South Africa. Data extracted were referral source, mechanism of injury, age and gender distribution, injury severity score (ISS), anatomical distribution of injury and mortality.
A total of 181 patients admitted during the study period accounted for 15.9% of all admissions. There were 84 females (46.4%) and 97 males (53.6%), with a median age of 7 years (interquartile range (IQR) 4 - 10). Sources of admission were directly from the scene in 38 cases (21.0%), from a primary healthcare facility in 47 (26.0%), from a regional hospital in 56 (31.0%) and from a tertiary facility in 40 (22.0%). Mortality rates according to location of transfer were regional hospital 8 deaths (30.8%), tertiary facility 7 (26.9%), primary health clinic 7 (26.9%), and from the scene 4 (15.4%). Mechanisms of injury were pedestrian-motor vehicle collision (PMVC) in 105 cases(58.0%), motor vehicle passenger in 38 (21.0%), non-vehicular blunt trauma in 18 (10.0%), gunshot wounds (GSWs) in 12 (6.6%), stab wounds in 6 (3.3%), bull goring in 1 (0.5%) and bicycle accident 1 (0.5%). The median ISS for all admissions was 25 (IQR 16 - 38). ISSs were >25 in 98 patients (54.1%), 16 - 25 in 51 (28.2%), 9 - 15 in 9 (4.9%) and < 9 in 13 (7.2%); 61.9% of patients had head injuries, 48.1% injuries to the extremities, 41.4% abdominal trauma, 40.3% thoracic trauma, 20.4% external soft-tissue trauma, 9.9% cervical injury and 9.4% facial trauma. There were 26 deaths (14.4%), of which PMVCs accounted for 16 (61.5%), motor vehicle passengers for 7 (26.9%), blunt trauma for 2 (7.7%) and GSWs for 1 (3.8%). The majority of deaths (92%) were of patients with an ISS >25. Of the 26 patients who died, 88.4% had a head injury, 46.2% an extremity injury, 38.5% an external injury, 34.6% abdominal or chest injuries, 19.2% neck injury and 11.5% facial injury.
Motor vehicle-related injuries, especially PMVCs, dominate severe paediatric trauma and there is an urgent need for more road traffic education and stringent measures to decrease the incidence and associated morbidity and mortality.


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