Mortality and management of 96 shark attacks and development of a shark bite severity scoring system

Am Surg. 2010 Jan;76(1):101-6.


Humans share a fascination and fear of sharks. We predict that most shark attacks are nonfatal but require skilled, timely medical intervention. The development of a shark bite severity scoring scale will assist communication and understanding of such an injury. We retrospectively reviewed records of the prospectively maintained International Shark Attack File (ISAF) at the University of Florida. The ISAF contains 4409 investigations, including 2979 documented attacks, 96 of which have complete medical records. We developed a Shark-Induced Trauma (SIT) Scale and calculated the level of injury for each attack. Medical records were reviewed for the 96 documented shark attack victims since 1921. Calculated levels of injury in the SIT Scale reveal 40 Level 1 injuries (41.7%), 16 Level 2 injuries (16.7%), 18 Level 3 injuries (18.8%), 14 Level 4 injuries (14.6%), and eight Level 5 injuries (8.3%). The overall mortality of shark attacks was 8.3 per cent. However, SIT Scale Level 1 injuries comprised the greatest percentage of cases at 41.7 per cent. Injury to major vascular structures increases mortality and necessitates immediate medical attention and definitive care by a surgeon. Shark bites deserve recognition with prompt resuscitation, washout, débridement, and follow up for prevention of infection and closure of more complex wounds.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Bites and Stings* / diagnosis
  • Bites and Stings* / mortality
  • Bites and Stings* / therapy
  • Child
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sharks*
  • Trauma Severity Indices*
  • United States / epidemiology