Emergency department impact of the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing

Ann Emerg Med. 1999 Aug;34(2):160-7. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(99)70224-6.


Study objective: To collect descriptive epidemiologic injury data on patients who suffered acute injuries after the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing and to describe the effect on metropolitan emergency departments.

Methods: A retrospective review of the medical records of victims seen for injury or illness related to the bombing at 1 of the 13 study hospitals from 9:02 AM to midnight April 19, 1995. Rescue workers and nontransported fatalities were excluded.

Results: Three hundred eighty-eight patients met inclusion criteria; 72 (18.6%) were admitted, 312 (80.4%) were treated and released, 3 (.7%) were dead on arrival, and 1 had undocumented disposition. Patients requiring admission took longer to arrive to EDs than patients treated and released (P =.0065). The EDs geographically closest to the blast site (1.5 radial miles) received significantly more victims than more distant EDs (P <.0001). Among the 90 patients with documented prehospital care, the most common interventions were spinal immobilization (964/90, 71.1%), field dressings (40/90, 44.4%), and intravenous fluids (32/90, 35.5%). No patients requiring prehospital CPR survived. Patients transported by EMS had higher admission rates than those arriving by any other mode (P <.0001). The most common procedures performed were wound care and intravenous infusion lines. The most common diagnoses were lacerations/contusion, fractures, strains, head injury, abrasions, and soft tissue foreign bodies. Tetanus toxoid, antibiotics, and analgesics were the most common pharmaceutical agents used. Plain radiology, computed tomographic radiology, and the hospital laboratory were the most significantly utilized ancillary services.

Conclusion: EMS providers tended to transport the more seriously injured patients, who tended to arrive in a second wave at EDs. The closest hospitals received the greatest number of victims by all transport methods. The effects on pharmaceutical use and ancillary service were consistent with the care of penetrating and blunt trauma. The diagnoses in the ED support previous reports of the complex but often nonlethal nature of bombing injuries.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disaster Planning
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Treatment / classification
  • Explosions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oklahoma / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Transportation of Patients
  • Triage
  • Violence*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*