Causes of early mortality in pediatric trauma patients

Christina M. Theodorou, Laura A. Galganski, Gregory J. Jurkovich, Diana L. Farmer, Shinjiro Hirose, Jacob T. Stephenson, A. Francois Trappey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Trauma is the leading cause of death in children, and most deaths occur within 24 hours of injury. A better understanding of the causes of death in the immediate period of hospital care is needed. METHODS: Trauma admissions younger than 18 years from 2009 to 2019 at a Level I pediatric trauma center were reviewed for deaths (n = 7,145). Patients were stratified into ages 0-6, 7-12, and 13-17 years old. The primary outcome was cause of death, with early death defined as less than 24 hours after trauma center arrival. RESULTS: There were 134 (2%) deaths with a median age of 7 years. The median time from arrival to death was 14.4 hours (interquartile range, 0.5-87.8 hours). Half (54%) occurred within 24 hours. However, most patients who survived initial resuscitation in the emergency department died longer than 24 hours after arrival (69%). Traumatic brain injury was the most common cause of death (66%), followed by anoxia (9.7%) and hemorrhage (8%). Deaths from hemorrhage were most often in patients sustaining gunshot wounds (73% vs. 11% of all other deaths, p < 0.0001), more likely to occur early (100% vs. 50% of all other deaths, p = 0.0009), and all died within 6 hours of arrival. Death from hemorrhage was more common in adolescents (21.4% of children aged 13-17 vs. 6.3% of children aged 0-6, and 0% of children aged 7-12 p = 0.03). The highest case fatality rates were seen in hangings (38.5%) and gunshot wounds (9.6%). CONCLUSION: Half of pediatric trauma deaths occurred within 24 hours. Death from hemorrhage was rare, but all occurred within 6 hours of arrival. This is a critical time for interventions for bleeding control to prevent death from hemorrhage in children. Analysis of these deaths can focus efforts on the urgent need for development of new hemorrhage control adjuncts in children. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Epidemiological study, level IV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)574-581
Number of pages8
JournalThe journal of trauma and acute care surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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