Casualties treated at the closest hospital in the Madrid, March 11, terrorist bombings

Crit Care Med. 2005 Jan;33(1 Suppl):S107-12. doi: 10.1097/01.ccm.0000151072.17826.72.


Background: At 07:39 am on March 11th, 2004, ten terrorist bomb explosions occurred almost simultaneously in four commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, killing instantly 177 people and injuring >2,000. There were 14 subsequent in-hospital deaths, bringing the definite death toll to 191 victims. This article describes the organization of the clinical management and patterns of injuries in casualties who were taken to the closest hospital, with emphasis on the critical patient population.

Results: There were 312 patients taken to that center, and 91 were hospitalized, 89 of them (28.5%) for >24 hrs. Sixty-two patients only had superficial bruises or emotional shock, but the remaining 250 patients had more severe lesions. The data on 243 of the latter form the basis of this report. Tympanic perforation occurred in 41% of 243 victims with moderate-to-severe trauma, chest injuries in 40%, shrapnel wounds in 36%, fractures in 18%, first- or second-degree burns in 18%, eye lesions in 18%, head trauma in 12%, and abdominal injuries in 5%. Between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm, 34 surgical interventions were performed on 32 victims. Twenty-nine casualties (12% of the total or 32.5% of those hospitalized) were deemed in critical condition, and two of them died within minutes of arrival. The other 27 survived to be admitted to intensive care units, and three of them died, bringing the critical mortality rate to 17.2% (5/29). The mean Injury Severity Score and Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II scores of critical patients were 34 and 23, respectively. Among these critical patients, soft-tissue and musculoskeletal injuries predominated in 85% of cases, ear blast injury was identified in 67%, and blast lung injury was present in 63% (17 cases). Fifty-two percent suffered head trauma.

Conclusions: There was probably an overtriage to the closest hospital, and the time of the blasts proved crucial for the adequacy of the medical and surgical response. The number of blast lung injuries seen is probably the largest reported by a single institution, and the critical mortality rate was reasonably low.

MeSH terms

  • Blast Injuries / classification*
  • Blast Injuries / mortality
  • Blast Injuries / therapy*
  • Critical Care / organization & administration
  • Disaster Planning
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Explosions*
  • Hospitals, University / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Spain
  • Terrorism*
  • Triage