Introduction: Previously, we demonstrated that 21% of pediatric (<16 years) trauma deaths in the Province of Ontario during the period 1985 to 1987 were potentially preventable. Since then many trauma system changes have occurred including field triage, designation of trauma centers, and improved injury prevention. This study aims to examine the current preventable trauma death rate in our system using identical methodology to our previous study.
Method: The records of all children (<16 years) who died in Ontario from 2001 to 2003 after blunt or penetrating trauma were obtained from the Chief Coroner and compared with those in our previous report. In both series, we excluded cases where care was not sought and all deaths due to asphyxia. Deaths were considered unpreventable if the Injury Severity Score, based on Abbreviated Injury Scale 1985, was >59; or if there was a head injury that received an Abbreviated Injury Scale score of 5 with the exception of isolated extra-axial hematomas.
Results: Eleven preventable deaths were identified. The preventable death rate was 7%, a significant decline from the 21% previously identified (p < 0.001; relative risk reduction for preventable death, 68% [95% confidence interval, 42-83%]; number needed to treat, 7).
Conclusion: There has been a threefold decline in the preventable death rate, which we believe is related to improvements in the trauma system. We estimated that, for every seven deaths from fatal injuries, system changes between the two study periods eliminated one preventable death.