Head injury care in a low- and middle-income country tertiary trauma center: epidemiology, systemic lacunae, and possible leads

Acta Neurochir (Wien). 2021 Jun 22. doi: 10.1007/s00701-021-04908-x. Online ahead of print.


Background: Although head injury (HI) from low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) heavily contributes to the global disease burden, studies are disproportionately less from this part of the world. Knowing the different epidemiological characteristics from high-income nations can target appropriate prevention strategies. This study aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the clinico-epidemiological data of HI patients, focusing on the existing challenges with possible solutions from a developing nation's perspective.

Methods: This is a prospective, registry-based, observational study of HI in an Indian tertiary trauma-care center over 4 years. Various clinico-epidemiological parameters, risk factors, and imaging spectrum were analyzed in a multivariate model to identify the challenges faced by LMIC and discuss pragmatic solutions.

Results: The study included a large-volume cohort of 14,888 patients. Notably, half of these patients belonged to mild HI, despite most were referred (90.3%) cases. Only one-third (30.8%) had severe HI. Less than a third reached us within 6 h of injury. Road traffic accidents (RTA) accounted for most injuries (61.1%), especially in the young (70.9%). Higher age, males, RTA, helmet non-usage, drunken driving, systemic injuries, and specific imaging features had an independent association with injury severity.

Conclusions: The study represents the much-needed, large-volume, epidemiological profile of HI from an LMIC, highlighting the suboptimal utilization of peripheral healthcare systems. Strengthening and integrating these facilities with the tertiary centers in a hub and enhanced spoke model, task sharing design, and efficient back-referrals promise effective neurotrauma care while avoiding overburden in the tertiary centers. Better implementation of road safety laws also has the potential to reduce the burden of HI.

Keywords: Hub and spoke; Lower–middle-income countries; Neurotrauma; Registry; Task sharing; Tertiary; Trauma; Traumatic brain injury.