Objective: Trauma accounts for a large proportion of childhood deaths. No data exist about injury patterns within paediatric trauma in the UK. Identification of specific high-risk injury patterns may lead to improved care and outcome.
Methods: Data from 24 218 paediatric trauma cases recorded by the Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN) from 1990 to 2005 were analysed. Main injury, injury patterns and outcome were analysed. Mortality at 93 days' post-injury was the major outcome measure.
Results: Limb injuries occurred in 65.0% of patients. In infants 81.4% of head injuries were isolated, compared with 46.5% in 11-15-year-old children. Thoracic injuries were associated with other injuries in 68.4%. The overall mortality rate was 3.7% (n = 893). Mortality decreased from 4.2% to 3.1%; this was most evident in non-isolated head injuries. It was low in isolated injuries: 1.5% (n = 293). In children aged 1-15 years the highest mortalities occurred in multiple injuries including head/thoracic (47.7%) and head/abdominal injuries (49.9%). Having a Glasgow Coma Scale of <15 on presentation to hospital was associated with a mortality of 16%.
Conclusions: Differences in injury patterns and mortality exist between different age groups and high-risk injury patterns can be identified. With increasing age, a decline in the proportion of children with head injury and an increase in the proportion with limb injury were observed. This information is useful for directing ongoing care of severely injured children. Future analyses of the TARN database may help to evaluate the management of high-risk children and to identify the most effective care.