The purpose of this study was to investigate the distribution of various mechanisms of injury and the relative severity of such injury cases throughout the different geographic zones of a large urban area using a computerized emergency medical services (EMS) dispatch/patient record database. The study city (population, 2 million residents) was divided into 156 geographic grids (each 4.5 by 3 miles) and the incidence and relative severity of various injury mechanisms were determined for each zone.
Results: In one year (1988), there were more than 115,000 separate EMS incidents involving more than 150,000 patients, 26,000 of whom were transported for injuries incurred in 10,064 motor vehicle accidents, 4,587 falls, 4,015 lacerations/stabwounds, 1,796 beatings, 1,270 gunshots, and 952 auto-pedestrian accidents. Analysis of the 156 zones showed a disproportionate number of EMS responses in the city center with two centralmost grids accounting for about 25% of all responses. Call volume then progressively diminished toward the periphery of the city. However, with some very minor exceptions, the relative incidence and severity of the various injury mechanisms remained proportionally uniform within each zone, regardless of geographic location. Therefore, contrary to popular notoriety, the incidence and associated severity of any given injury type generally was not necessarily predicted by any particular neighborhood predilection for it, but rather by the overall demand for EMS in that zone of the city.