Study objective: To assess the current morbidity and mortality of motorcycle trauma in the state of Illinois and, specifically, to assess the incidence and cost of head injury to motorcycle crash patients according to their helmet use.
Design: Retrospective, cross-sectional examination of the Illinois Department of Public Health Trauma Registry, for which data are available from July 1, 1991, through December 31, 1992. Data are collected from all hospitals designated as Level I or Level II trauma centers in Illinois.
Participants: All patients involved in motorcycle crashes and subsequently taken to a Level I or Level II trauma center in Illinois and entered into the trauma registry during the period studied.
Results: Head injury, spinal injury, helmet use, demographic data, hospital charges, days in ICU, and source of payment were selected as outcome measures. During the 18-month study period, 1,231 motorcycle trauma patients were entered into the trauma registry. Eighteen percent were helmeted and 56.0% were nonhelmeted. In 26.0% the helmet status at the time of the crash was unknown. Thirty percent of the helmeted patients sustained head injury and 4% sustained spinal or vertebral injury, compared with 51% and 8%, respectively, for nonhelmeted patients. Nonhelmeted patients were significantly more likely to sustain severe (Abbreviated Injury Score [AIS], 3 or more) or critical (AIS, 5 or more) head injury. Patients with these serious head injuries incurred almost three times the hospital charges and used a disproportionately larger share of ICU days than those with mild or no head injuries. There was a trend toward greater use of public funds or self-pay status (no insurance) for payment of hospital charges in nonhelmeted patients.
Conclusion: Motorcycle helmet nonuse was associated with an increased incidence of serious head injury. Motorcycle trauma patients with severe or critical head injuries used a significantly greater proportion of ICU days and hospital charges than those with mild or no head injuries.