Characterisation of childhood and adolescence accidental fatalities in Rivers State, Nigeria: A study of 250 autopsies
Background: Accidental death in childhood and adolescence is posing a public health problem in Nigeria, as most of these deaths were not caused by the victims. There is need to research into the pattern and circumstances surrounding the death.
Aim: To characterise and study accidental deaths in childhood and adolescence in Rivers State, Nigeria.
Design: A retrospective autopsy study of 250 cases.
Subjects: Children aged 16 years and below.
Methodology: Coroner and hospital autopsies performed by the authors at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), other hospitals and private mortuaries in Rivers State were used for the study, covering 1995 to 2004.
Results: A total of 250 consecutive autopsies were used for the study. One hundred and fifty (60%) were males and 100 (40%) were females, giving a male to female ratio of 1.5:1. The highest frequency of death occurred in the age group 8 - 11 years 82 (32.8%), while the least occurred in age group less than 4 years [42 (16.8%)]. The youngest was a one-year-old female, while the oldest was a 16-year-old male. Accidental death in this study was predominantly vehicular, [174 (69.6%)] while domestic accidental deaths were the next most common [76 (30.4%)]. The commonest cause of vehicular deaths was motor vehicles [72 (28.8%)] while the least was pedal bicycles [3 (1.2%)]. Similarly, the commonest cause of domestic death was gunshot [15 (6.0%)] while the least was overlying 1 (0.4%). A total of 67 (26.8%) cases occurred in the rural areas, while 183 (73.2%) occurred in urban areas.
Conclusion: Vehicular accidents were the commonest cause of death in this study. There is need for enforcement of road traffic laws, as a mitigating measure. Effective supervision of children at home and around the environment can also reduce accidental deaths.
Keywords: Accidental death, childhood, Adolescence, Rivers State