An audit of trauma-related mortality in a provincial capital in South Africa
Introduction. It has been shown repeatedly that hospital-based mortality data do not capture the actual mortality rate in South Africa, as
many corpses are taken directly to the state mortuary.
Objective. To present a comprehensive overview of the forensic mortality data for trauma in an urban metropolitan complex.
Methods. A retrospective audit was conducted by reviewing all mortuary reports for the period 1 January 2010 - 31 December 2011. The data recorded included demographics, mechanism of trauma, and cause and site of death.
Results. A total of 1 105 trauma victims died. There were 930 males (84.2%) and 175 females (15.8%), of whom 615 were victims of blunt trauma (55.7%) and 490 victims of penetrating trauma (44.3%). The scenes of death were: on scene 584 (52.9%), Edendale Hospital 259 (23.4%), Grey’s Hospital 144 (13.0%), Northdale Hospital 68 (6.2%), and ‘other’ 50 (4.5%). The ‘other’ group comprised nine deaths at primary healthcare clinics and 41 at private hospitals in Pietermaritzburg. Of deaths related to blunt trauma, 153 (24.9%) were secondary to assault and 462 (75.1%) to a road traffic collision. Of the victims of penetrating trauma, 81 (36.9%) had sustained gunshot wounds and 309 (63.1%) stab wounds. The three leading causes of trauma-related deaths were head injuries (32.6%), polytrauma (29.7%) and chest injuries (27.4%).
Conclusions. Pietermaritzburg has both a high rate of trauma-related mortality and an immature trauma system, resulting in a significant
number of preventable deaths.