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The spectrum and outcome of paediatric traumatic brain injury in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa has not changed over the last two decades

J.J.P. Buitendag
V.Y. Kong
J.L. Bruce
G.L. Laing
D.L. Clarke
P Brysiewicz


Objectives. This retrospective review of a prospectively entered and maintained hybrid electronic trauma registry was intended to develop a comprehensive overview of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children and adolescents and to compare it with previous audits from our local environment and from other developing world centres. All TBI patients admitted to hospital were included in this study. We reviewed the age, gender, outcomes, radiological findings and treatment of the patients.

Methods. All patients aged ≤18 years old who were admitted by the Pietermaritzburg Metropolitan Trauma Service (PMTS) with TBI between December 2012 and December 2016 were included in this audit.

Results. During the 4-year period under review, a total of 563 children and adolescents were treated for TBI by the PMTS. The median age was 6.4 years and 29% (n=165) were females. The mechanism of TBI was blunt trauma in 96% (n=544) of cases, with 4% (n=19) suffering penetrating trauma. The penetrating mechanisms included impalement by a cow horn and miscellaneous injuries due to saws, axes, barbed wire, spades, stones and knives. The blunt mechanisms included falls (n=102), assaults (n=108), collapse of a building (n=28), bicyclerelated injury (n=14), falling off a moving vehicle (n=280), motor vehicle accident (MVA; n=59), pedestrian vehicle accident (PVA; n=183) and animal-related injuries (n=8). There were 454 (80%) mild, 67 (12%) moderate and 42 (7%) severe cases of TBI. A total of 48 patients were admitted to the intensive care unit and 23 were admitted to the high care unit. Nine patients died. All the deaths were in the MVA and PVA group. The spectrum of TBI as diagnosed on computed tomography scans was nonspecific cerebral contusion (n=92), depressed skull fracture (n=70), sub-arachnoid haemorrhage (n=60), extradural haemorrhage (n=41), intracerebral haemorrhage (n=19), free air (n=19),
subdural haemorrhage (n=13), intraventricular haemorrhage (n=9). A total of 62 (11%) patients required surgery.

Conclusion. There is a significant burden of paediatric TBI in Pietermaritzburg. The majority of TBI was related to blunt trauma and assaults were very common. Although the short-term outcomes are good, the long-term consequences are poorly understood. Injury prevention programmes are needed to help reduce this burden of disease and a nationwide trauma registry is long overdue.

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eISSN: 2078-5135
print ISSN: 0256-9574