12:46am Tuesday 21 January 2020

Gunshot injuries in children more severe, deadly and costly than other childhood injuries, study finds

Gunshot injuries rank 2nd only to motor vehicles crashes as a cause of death for children age 15 to 19. “There has been little science and lots of misinformation cited on the topic of gunshot injuries in children,” said Craig Newgard, principal investigator for the study and director of the Center for Policy and Research in Emergency Medicine at OHSU. “This study was intended to add some objective data to the conversation.”

  Gunshot injuries rank 2nd only to motor vehicles crashes as a cause of death for children age 15 to 19.

Previous studies on gunshot injuries in children have focused almost exclusively on mortality. This study is one of few to include the much broader number of children affected by gunshot injuries and served by 911 emergency services, both in-hospital and out-of-of hospital measures of injury severity, and children with gunshot injuries treated outside major trauma centers. 

To conduct this research, Newgard and his OHSU colleagues, in addition to investigators from UC Davis and other centers in the western United States, reviewed data from nearly 50,000 injured children aged 19 and younger for whom 911 emergency medical services (EMS) were activated over a three-year period in five western regions: Portland, Ore.; Vancouver, Wash.; King County, Wash.; Sacramento, Calif.; Santa Clara Calif.; and Denver, Colo.

The research team looked at the number of injuries, severity of injury, type of hospital interventions, patient deaths and costs-per-patient in children with gunshot injuries compared with children whose injuries resulted from other mechanisms, including stabbing, being hit by a motor vehicle, struck by blunt object, falls, motor vehicle crashes and others.

They found that compared with children who had other mechanisms of injury, children injured by gunshot had the highest proportion of serious injuries (23 percent), major surgery (32 percent), in-hospital deaths (8 percent) and per-patient costs ($28,000 per patient). 

“While children with gunshot wounds made up only 1 percent of the sample, they accounted for more than 20 percent of deaths following injury and a disproportionate share of hospital costs,” said Nathan Kuppermann, professor and chair of emergency medicine at the UC Davis Medical Center and co-author of the study. “The collaboration among the 10 emergency departments in the Western Emergency Services Translational Research Network enabled us to amass a large enough sample size to assess the physical and financial impact of gunshot injuries in children so that more effective injury prevention efforts can be developed.”

The investigators concluded that public health, injury prevention and health-policy solutions are needed to reduce gunshot injuries in children and their major health consequences. The researchers state that curbing these preventable events will require broad-based interdisciplinary efforts, including rigorous research partnerships with national organizations, and evidence-based legislation.

“Over the first decade of the 21st century, firearms ranked second only to motor vehicles as a cause of death for children and teenagers — Americans ages 1-19 — considered as a group,” said Garen Wintemute, the study’s senior author and director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. “We hope the findings of this study will help point the way toward effective prevention measures.”

This multi-region, population-based, retrospective study used the Western Emergency Services Translational Research Network. Authors include: Craig Newgard and Brian Wetzel from Oregon Health Sciences University; Nathan Kuppermann, James F. Holmes and Garen Wintemute from UC Davis; Jason Haukoos from the University of Colorado; Renee Hsia from the University of California, San Francisco; Ewen Wang and Kristan Stauden-Mayer from Stanford University; Eileen Bulger from the University of Washington; and N. Clay Mann and Erik Barton from the University of Utah.

The study was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Physician Faculty Scholars Program; California Wellness Foundation (2010-067); the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute (UL1 RR024140); UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center (UL1 RR024146); Stanford Center for Clinical and Translational Education and Research (1UL1 RR025744); University of Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Science (UL1-RR025764 and C06-RR11234); and University of California San Francisco Clinical and Translational Science Institute (UL1 RR024131). All Clinical and Translational Science Awards are from the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and NIH Roadmap for Medical Research.

Oregon Health & Science University is a nationally prominent research university and Oregon’s only public academic health center. It serves patients throughout the region with a Level 1 trauma center and nationally recognized Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. OHSU operates dental, medical, nursing and pharmacy schools that rank high both in research funding and in meeting the university’s social mission. OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute helped pioneer personalized medicine through a discovery that identified how to shut down cells that enable cancer to grow without harming healthy ones. OHSU Brain Institute scientists are nationally recognized for discoveries that have led to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and new treatments for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke. OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute is a global leader in ophthalmic imaging, and in clinical trials related to eye disease.

UC Davis Medical Center is a comprehensive academic medical center where clinical practice, teaching and research converge to improve human health. With many centers of excellence — including the region’s only level 1 trauma center, renowned institutes for the study of neurodevelopmental disorders and population health improvement, and a nationally designated cancer center  and clinical and translational science center — the UC Davis serves a 33-county, 65,000-square-mile area that stretches north to the Oregon border and east to Nevada. It further extends its reach through the award-winning telemedicine program, which gives California’s remote and medically underserved communities unprecedented access to specialty and subspecialty care.

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