Background: Throughout history, children have been victims of armed conflict, including the blast injury complex, however, the pattern of injury, physiologic impact, and treatment needs of children with this injury are not well documented.
Methods: The Joint Theatre Trauma Registry provides data on all civilians admitted to US military treatment facilities from 2002 to 2010 with injuries from an explosive device. The data were stratified by age and analyzed for differences in anatomic injury patterns, Injury Severity Score (ISS), Revised Trauma Score (RTS), mortality, intensive care unit days, and length of hospitalization. Multivariate logistic regression was done to determine independent predictors of mortality. All operative procedures with a specified site were tabulated and categorized by body region and age.
Results: A total of 4,983 civilian patients were admitted, 25% of whom were younger than 15 years. Pediatric patients aged 8 to 14 years had a higher ISS and hospital stay than other age groups, and children younger than 15 years had a longer intensive care unit stay. Injuries in children were more likely to occur in the head and neck and less likely in the bony pelvis and extremities. Children had a lower RTS than the other age groups. Mortality correlated highly with burns, head injury, transfusion, and RTS. Adolescent patients had a lower mortality rate than the other age groups. Improvised explosive devices were the most common cause of injury in all age groups.
Conclusion: Children experiencing blast injury complex have an anatomic pattern that is unique and an RTS that reflects more severe physiologic derangement. Injuries requiring transfusion or involving the head and neck and burns were predictive of mortality, and this persisted across all age groups. The mortality rate of children with blast injury is significant (7%), and treatment is resource intensive, requiring many surgical subspecialties.
Level of evidence: Epidemiologic study, level III.