Most trauma injuries sustained at home or on road, report reveals

Major trauma caused most often by falls of under 2m, says office of clinical audit

The vast majority of traumatic injuries suffered by patients occurred at home or on the roads, an audit of hospital data shows.

Low falls of under 2m were the most common single cause of major trauma, accounting for over half of all cases last year, according to the report published by the National Office of Clinical Audit.

Some 602 patients, or one in five of the total, were injured in a road accident. A breakdown of road trauma data showed 320 car occupants were injured last year, as were 113 cyclists, 98 pedestrians and 71 motorcyclists. The level of severity of injury was highest among pedestrians, followed by cyclists and car occupants.

The study also recorded 38 patients who were shot or stabbed (down from 65 in 2014), 216 who had received blows (assault) and 59 who sustained burns.

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The most common place where major trauma occurred was the home (46 per cent) followed by the road (20 per cent). Farm-related injuries accounted for 148 major trauma injuries (5 per cent).

The study says the health service needs to take account of the higher incidence of older patients sustaining major trauma on the roads and focus on methods to reduce the high burden of injury associated with low falls.

Head injuries

Head injury was the main cause of death among the patients reviewed. “In those that survive, it can be a devastating injury for the patient and their families and carries a high societal cost,” the report notes. Low falls were the greatest cause of traumatic brain injury.

Just one in four patients was seen by a consultant in the emergency department, and 11 per cent were seen by a consultant within 30 minutes. Among the most seriously injured patients, 35 per cent were seen by a consultant and 19 per cent were seen within 30 minutes.

Although head injury patients are supposed to receive a CT scan within an hour, the average time it took this to happen was 1.3 hours.

Of the 5,200 patients reviewed in 2014 and 2015, 284, or 5 per cent died. Almost half of all assaults resulted in deaths, and one-third of drowning/other asphyxiations.

Most (57 per cent) of victims of major trauma were men, while 54 per cent were aged between 16 and 64. Six out of 10 patients were seen between the hours of 4pm and 8am.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times