The scourge of knife crime: trends in knife-related assault managed at a major centre in South Africa
Background: Knife wounds are common and represent a major burden to the South African healthcare system. This study reviews trends in spectrum, management and outcome of these injuries at a single trauma centre in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
Methods: The regional hybrid electronic registry (HEMR) was reviewed for the period January 2013 – December 2018, and all patients who suffered a knife-related assault were identified and reviewed.
Results: During the period under review, a total of 2117 patients suffered a knife-related assault. Regions injured were as follows: head 445, neck 572, face 258, chest 939, abdomen 649, pelvic/urogenital 49, upper limb 418, and lower limb 105. The median ISS was 9 (4–10). Imaging comprised 1242 chest X-rays, 315 abdominal X rays, 162 abdominal ultrasounds/FAST, and 929 CT scans of which 634 were CT angiograms. A total of 783 (37%) patients required an operation. The rate of laparotomy was 447/649 (69%) and of thoracotomy/sternotomy/thoracoscopy 95/939 (10%). The rate of vascular exploration for upper and lower limb vascular injury was 101/523 (19%). Mortality was 49/2117 (2.3%).
Conclusion: Although our clinical outcomes over this period appear to be consistent, suggesting a familiarity with managing knife-related trauma, the persistently high rate of knife-related injury suggests that we have failed to develop a preventative strategy to try and reduce this scourge.
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