Changing epidemiology of trauma deaths leads to a bimodal distribution

Mark Gunst, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Introduction. Injury mortality was classically described with a tri-modal distribution, with immediate deaths at the scene, early deaths due to hemorrhage, and late deaths from organ failure. We hypothesized that trauma systems development have improved pre-hospital care, early resuscitation, and critical care, and altered this pattern. Methods. This is a population-based study of all trauma deaths in an urban county with a mature trauma system (n=678, median age 33 years, 81% male, 43% gunshot, 20% motor vehicle crashes). Deaths were classified as immediate (scene), early (in hospital, ≤ 4 hours from injury), or late (>4 hours post injury). Multinomial regression was used to identify independent predictors of immediate and early vs. late deaths, adjusted for age, gender, race, intention, mechanism, toxicology and cause of death. Results. There were 416 (61%) immediate, 199 (29%) early, and 63 (10%) late deaths. Immediate deaths remained unchanged and early deaths occurred much earlier (median 52 minutes vs. 120). However, unlike the classic trimodal distribution, there was no late peak. Intentional injuries, alcohol intoxication, asphyxia, and injuries to the head and chest were independent predictors of immediate deaths. Alcohol intoxication and injuries to the chest were predictors of early deaths, while pelvic fractures and blunt assaults were associated with late deaths. Conclusion. Trauma deaths now have a bimodal distribution. Elimination of the late peak likely represents advancements in resuscitation and critical care that have reduced organ failure. Further reductions in mortality will likely come from prevention of intentional injuries, and injuries associated with alcohol intoxication.

Subject Area

Public health|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Gunst, Mark, "Changing epidemiology of trauma deaths leads to a bimodal distribution" (2008). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1458228.