Background: Finnmark is a rural and remote area in Norway with a sparse population and long distances. Trauma-related mortality has been consistently above the Norwegian national average for the last 20 years. Although the causes of death are well established, very little is known about the time and place of death. This information has implications for the organization of emergency services in rural areas. We examined all trauma deaths over a five-year period in order to inform the debate on how best to reduce our above-average mortality rate.
Methods: A retrospective study of all deaths after trauma (ICD-9 E800-E999) during the years 1991-95 using data obtained from the National Registry of Death.
Results: Of the 183 cases found, 130 deaths were due to trauma using definitions comparable to similar studies. The mortality rate was 77 per 100,000 inhabitants per year. Death occurred in the prehospital phase in 85% of cases. Seventy-two per cent of all deaths (regardless of location) occurred within the first h after injury, eight per cent from 1 to 4 h and the remaining 20% occurred after 4 h.
Conclusion: When planning interventions to reduce the mortality rate from trauma in rural areas, a high proportion of prehospital deaths should be expected. The high number of patients who are found dead (which can only be reduced by injury prevention) must be taken into account. Measures to reduce 'preventable' causes of death by bystanders should be evaluated. Further knowledge of exact mechanisms of death in the prehospital phase is required.
Copyright Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica 47 (2003)