Objective: Increasing numbers of avalanche victims with polytrauma have highlighted their need for radiological injury characterisation, which this study examines.
Methods: People in Tirol injured by avalanche during 1994-2005 and admitted to the Innsbruck Medical University Hospital were included. Data for this retrospective study were obtained from the Austrian avalanche register and local electronic patient files archive.
Results: During the observation period 94 avalanche victims in Tirol were admitted to our hospital, and a mean of 1.5 radiological methods were used per person at presentation. A mean of three diagnoses per victim were recorded, of which one was eligible for radiological examination only. Most victims (56%) were diagnosed with hypothermia, followed by unspecific contusion (54%), injuries of ligaments, tendons or muscles (26%) and fracture (23%); 21 victims died in hospital.
Conclusions: Emergency radiological examination can discover injuries otherwise not immediately apparent. However, initial use of radiological assessments such as computed tomography for people admitted under cardiopulmonary resuscitation does not always ensure an optimal outcome.