South African Journal of Surgery

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Patterns of injury seen in road crash victims in a South African trauma centre

F Parkinson, S Kent, C Aldous, G Oosthuizen, DL Clarke


Background. Road traffic crashes (RTCs) account for a significant burden of disease in South Africa. This prospective study reviews basic demographic and outcome data of patients who sustained an RTC-related injury and analyses the common patterns of injury associated with specific mechanisms of injury.
Method. We reviewed all patients seen at a single regional hospital (Edendale Hospital, Pietermaritzburg) with injuries sustained in RTCs over a 10-week period. State mortuary data were gathered on all RTC-related fatalities over the same period.
Results. Three hundred and five RTC patients were seen at the hospital over the 10-week period. The average transfer time to hospital was 9.2 hours (range 1 - 17 hours). One hundred patients were admitted and the rest were discharged home from the emergency department. Of the admitted cohort, 59 were motor vehicle occupants (MVC group) and 41 were pedestrians (PVC group). PVC patients commonly had lower limb, head, radio-ulnar and clavicular injuries, while MVC patients commonly had neck and intraabdominal injuries. Thirty-seven patients had multiple injuries. The in-hospital mortality rate was 5.6%, but the overall mortality rate was 10.0%, as 15 patients died at the scene.
Conclusions. Patterns of injury differ according to the mechanism of injury. Pedestrians impact against various parts of the vehicle and the ground and so sustain injuries to their arms and legs. Occupants of vehicles impact against the dashboard and steering wheel and are more likely to sustain torso injuries. The low number of severe injuries and multiple injuries and the relatively low inpatient mortality rate are a consequence of the triage effect of long delays in transfer. More severely injured patients are more likely to die at the scene.
AJOL African Journals Online