Research

A review of geriatric injuries at a major trauma centre in South Africa

J-P Da Costa, J Laing, V Y Kong, J L Bruce, G L Laing, D L Clarke

Abstract


Background. Trauma in South Africa (SA) has been referred to as a malignant epidemic, but the impact of trauma on the elderly has tended to be overlooked.

Objectives. To address this deficit by focusing on trauma victims aged ≥65 years.

Methods. All patients aged ≥65 years who were admitted to Grey’s Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, SA, following trauma between December 2012 and January 2019 were reviewed.

Results. Over the 6-year study period, a total of 281 patients aged ≥65 years were admitted to Grey’s Hospital following trauma. There were 150 males (53.4%) and 97 females (34.5%). The sex of 34 patients was unknown. The average age was 72 years (range 65 - 97). There were 226 cases of blunt trauma, 42 cases of penetrating trauma (including two incidents of impalement following blunt trauma) and 15 cases of other types of trauma. The most common causes of blunt trauma were accidental falls (n=76), motor vehicle accidents (n=46), pedestrian vehicle accidents (n=32) and falls from a height (n=23). Gunshot wounds (n=22) and knife wounds (n=14) were the most common forms of penetrating trauma. Other trauma mainly comprised dog bites (n=6) and snakebites (n=6). There were 72 incidents of assault (25.6% of total cases). The majority of assaults were committed by a single perpetrator, and the perpetrator was frequently known to the victim. There were no significant differences in the proportions of penetrating, blunt and other trauma injuries between males and females. A total of 44 patients (15.7%) required surgical intervention, and 41 patients (14.6%) experienced complications during their hospitalisation. Respiratory, renal and cardiac complications were most frequent, and 5 patients had a cardiac arrest. Seven experienced acute kidney injury. Seventeen patients (6.0%) required intensive care unit admission and 5 (1.8%) required ventilation. Patients stayed in hospital for an average of 2.96 days (range 0 - 39). Of the patients, 241 (85.8%) survived, 32 (11.4%) died and 8 (2.9%) had an unknown outcome.

Conclusions. Geriatric trauma in SA is relatively rare, but will increase as the population ages. There is a high incidence of assault as a mechanism, highlighting the fact that elderly people are a vulnerable group. Managing these patients is challenging and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality.

 


Authors' affiliations

J-P Da Costa, Final-year medical student, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

J Laing, Department of Surgery, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

V Y Kong, Department of Surgery, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

J L Bruce, Department of Surgery, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

G L Laing, Department of Surgery, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

D L Clarke, Department of Surgery, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Keywords

Geriatric; Trauma; South Africa

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2020;110(1):44-48. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v110i1.14100

Article History

Date submitted: 2019-12-12
Date published: 2019-12-12

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