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Variations in injury characteristics among paediatric patients following trauma: A retrospective descriptive analysis comparing pre-hospital and in-hospital deaths at Kamuzu Central Hospital, Lilongwe, Malawi

Laura Purcell
Charles E. Mabedi
Jared Gallaher
Steven Mjuweni
Sean McLean
Bruce Cairns
Anthony Charles


Background: Trauma is a major cause of paediatric mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. In absence of pre-hospital care, the injury mechanism and cause of death is difficult to characterise. Injury characteristics of pre-hospital deaths (PHD) versus in-hospital deaths (IHD) were compared.

Methods: Using our trauma surveillance database, a retrospective, descriptive analysis of children (<18 years) presenting to Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, Malawi from 2008 to 2013 was performed. Patient and injury characteristics of pre-hospital and in-hospital deaths were compared with univariate and bivariate analysis.

Results: Of 30,462 paediatric trauma patients presenting between 2008 and 2013, 170 and 173 were PHD and IHD, respectively. In PHD and IHD patients mean age was 7.3±4.9 v 5.2±4.3 (p<0.001), respectively. IHD patients were more likely transported via ambulance than those PHD, 51.2% v 8.3% (p<0.001). The primary mechanisms of injury for PHD were road traffic injuries (RTI) (45.8%) and drowning (22.0%), with head injury (46.7%) being the predominant cause of death. Burns were the leading mechanism of injury (61.8%) and cause of death (61.9%) in IHD, with a mean total body surface area involvement of 24.7±16.0%.

Conclusions: RTI remains Malawi’s major driver of paediatric mortality. A majority of these deaths attributed to head injury occur prior to hospitalisation; therefore the mortality burden is underestimated if accounting for IHD alone. Death in burn patients is likely due to under-resuscitation or sepsis. Improving pre-hospital care and head injury and burn management can improve injury related paediatric mortality.

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eISSN: 1995-7262
print ISSN: 1995-7270