Objective: To identify patterns of nonfatal and fatal penetrating trauma among children and adults in New Mexico using ED and medical examiner data.
Methods: The authors retrospectively sampled in 5-year intervals all victims of penetrating trauma who presented to either the state Level-1 trauma center or the state medical examiner from a 16-year period (1978-1993). Rates of nonfatal and fatal firearm and stabbing injury were compared for children and adults.
Results: Rates of nonfatal injury were similar (firearm, 34.3 per 100,000 person-years; stabbing, 35.1). However, rates of fatal injury were significantly different (firearm, 21.9; stabbing, 2.7; relative risk: 8.2; 95% confidence interval: 5.4, 12.5). From 1978 to 1993, nonfatal injury rates increased for children (p = 0.0043) and adults (p < 0.0001), while fatal penetrating injury remained constant. The increase in nonfatal injury in children resulted from increased firearm injury rates. In adults, both stabbing and firearm nonfatal injury rates increased.
Conclusions: Nonfatal injury data suggest that nonfatal violence has increased; fatal injury data suggest that violent death rates have remained constant. Injury patterns vary by age, mechanism of trauma, and data source. These results suggest that ED and medical examiner data differ and that both are needed to guide injury prevention programs.