Blunt trauma in adults and children: A comparative analysis

Charles L. Snyder, Vivanti N. Jain, Daniel A. Saltzman, Richard G. Strate, John F. Perry, Arnold S. Leonard

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60 Scopus citations


Trauma remains the major cause of death in children and young adults. Adult and pediatric patients differ significantly in both mechanism of and physiologic response to injury. We reviewed the records of all consecutive adult and pediatric blunt trauma patients admitted to a major metropolitan trauma center for a 10-year period. An extensive computerized database has been maintained for all patients since 1977. A comparative statistical analysis of mechanism of injury, specific organ injury, and clinical outcome was performed. Altogether, 1, 722 adults and 289 children were treated during the study period. Blunt trauma accounted for 82.8% of adult and 94.3% of pediatric injury (p = 0.00005), and only these patients were considered for analysis. Diagnostic peritoneal lavage was performed in 249 children and 1, 464 adults, with a respective accuracy of 99.6% and 97.2%. Mechanism of injury was comparable for both groups, although children were far more likely to be injured by falls, bicycle accidents, or struck by an automobile. Comparative analysis of specific injuries demonstrated significantly fewer pediatric chest (p = 0.001), spine (p = 0.03), and pelvic (p = 0.003) injuries. Central nervous system (CNS) injury in children was a strong determinant of outcome: serious pediatric CNS trauma was associated with a tenfold increase in mortality. Mortality for children in the absence of CNS injury was less than 3%. Spinal injury also appeared to be a predictor of poor outcome in the pediatric population, with an associated mortality of greater than 50%. Overall, survival was age independent (82.5% of adults and 85.8% of children were survivors). However, the incidence of delayed diagnosis, infectious complications, and permanent disability was significantly lower in children, and permanent disability occurred in 17% of children injured. Increased awareness of the principles of treatment of traumatic injuries in adults and children, and recognition of the age-related differences in response to injury may lower pediatric trauma mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1239-1245
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1990


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