Patterns of mortality and causes of death in polytrauma patients--has anything changed?

Injury. 2009 Sep;40(9):907-11. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2009.05.006. Epub 2009 Jun 21.


Introduction: Numerous articles have examined the pattern of traumatic deaths. Most of these studies have aimed to improve trauma care and raise awareness of avoidable complications. The aim of the present review is to evaluate whether the distribution of complications and mortality has changed.

Materials and methods: A review of the published literature to identify studies examining patterns and causes of death following trauma treated in level 1 hospitals published between 1980 and 2008. PubMed was searched using the following terms: Trauma Epidemiology, Injury Pattern, Trauma Deaths, and Causes of Death. Three time periods were differentiated: (n=6, 1980-1989), (n=6, 1990-1999), and (n=10, 2000-2008). The results were limited to the English and/or German language. Manuscripts were analysed to identify the age, injury severity score (ISS), patterns and causes of death mentioned in studies.

Results: Twenty-two publications fulfilled the inclusion criteria for the review. A decrease of haemorrhage-induced deaths (25-15%) has occurred within the last decade. No considerable changes in the incidence and pattern of death were found. The predominant cause of death after trauma continues to be central nervous system (CNS) injury (21.6-71.5%), followed by exsanguination (12.5-26.6%), while sepsis (3.1-17%) and multi-organ failure (MOF) (1.6-9%) continue to be predominant causes of late death.

Discussion: Comparing manuscripts from the last three decades revealed a reduction in the mortality rate from exsanguination. Rates of the other causes of death appear to be unchanged. These improvements might be explained by developments in the availability of multislice CT, implementation of ATLS concepts and logistics of emergency rescue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cause of Death / trends
  • Central Nervous System / injuries*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Hemorrhage / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Organ Failure / etiology
  • Multiple Organ Failure / mortality*
  • Multiple Trauma / complications
  • Multiple Trauma / mortality*
  • Sepsis / etiology
  • Sepsis / mortality*