Epidemiological survey of head and neck injuries and trauma in the United States

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 Nov;151(5):776-84. doi: 10.1177/0194599814546112. Epub 2014 Aug 19.


Objective: Head and neck trauma results in a range of injuries, spanning minor lacerations to life-threatening airway compromise. Few studies provide in-depth analysis of injuries to the head and neck (HN). We aim to (1) describe HN injury prevalence in the US and (2) investigate patient disposition and the outcome of mortality.

Study design: Case series with chart review.

Setting: Nationwide emergency department (ED) sample.

Methods: The 2011 database was queried for encounters with a primary diagnosis of HN injury, as categorized by the Barell Injury Matrix. Weighted estimates for demographics, injury category, and mechanism were extracted. Predictors of mortality and admission were determined by multivariable regression.

Results: We identified 131 million ED encounters. A weighted total of 5,418,539 visits were related to primary HN injuries. Average age was 30 (SE = 0.4), and 56.8% were male. Sixty-four percent of injuries were attributed to fall or blunt trauma. Open wounds comprised 41.8% of injuries. The most common procedure was laceration repair (70%). The majority of patients (97%) were discharged home. Mortality rate was less than 1%. Predictors of admission and mortality (P < .05) included multiple trauma, vessel trauma, and burns. Other risk factors included foreign-body, older age, and male gender.

Conclusions: Primary HN injuries commonly present to emergency rooms in the US. The majority of HN injuries are non-life threatening and do not require admission to the hospital or result in death. These data have implications for HN injury surveillance and may be used to risk-stratify patients who present with injuries in the acute care setting.

Keywords: emergency department; head and neck; injury; otolaryngology; trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult