The hidden mortality of pediatric firearm violence

Christina M. Theodorou, Carl A. Beyer, Melissa A. Vanover, Ian E. Brown, Edgardo S. Salcedo, Diana L. Farmer, Shinjiro Hirose, Alana L. Beres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Firearms and motor vehicle collisions (MVC) are leading causes of mortality in children. We hypothesized that firearm injuries would have a higher mortality than MVCs in children and a higher level of resource utilization Methods: Trauma patients <18 years old at a Level 1 pediatric trauma center sustaining gunshot wounds (GSW) or MVCs 2009–2019 were included. The primary outcome was mortality. The secondary outcome was immediate surgery. The California Department of Public Health's Overall Injury Surveillance tool was queried for patients <18 with GSW or MVC 2006–2015 to compare statewide case fatality rates (CFRs), and analyze proportions of GSWs by intent: assault, self-inflicted, and unintentional. Results: Of 13,840 pediatric trauma patients at our institution, 295 GSWs (2.1%) and 4467 MVCs (32.3%) were included. Mortality was higher for GSWs (7.5% vs. 0.8%, p<0.0001). GSW patients were more likely to require immediate surgery (34.4% vs. 11.2%, p<0.0001). On multivariable analysis, GSW patients were 7.8-times more likely to die than MVC patients (OR 7.83, 95% CI 3.68–16.66, p<0.0001), adjusted for age, sex, and injury severity. Statewide, there were 10,790 pediatric GSWs with 1586 deaths (CFR 14.7%) vs. 710 deaths in 261,363 children in MVCs (CFR 0.3%, p<0.0001). The GSW CFR rose (13.4% to 16.5%, p = 0.05) while the MVC CFR decreased (0.5% to 0.2%, p<0.0001) in 2015 vs. 2006. Conclusion: Firearm violence in pediatric patients is significantly more lethal than MVCs and is resource intensive. The case fatality rate for pediatric firearm violence is rising. Resources must be directed at preventing pediatric firearm injuries. Level of evidence: Prognosis study, Level II

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Firearm violence
  • Injury prevention
  • Mortality
  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Pediatric trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Surgery


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