A long walk to freedom: the epidemiology of penetrating trauma in South Africa – analysis of 4 697 patients over a six-year period at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital
Background: Despite the city of Johannesburg having one of the highest rates of crime in the world, no national databank for trauma exists. This study profiles the victims of penetrating trauma and identifies geographical areas in which it occurs, while describing the outcomes and patterns of injury.
Methods: A retrospective study including penetrating trauma patients triaged as Priority 1, presenting at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital’s (CHBAH) trauma department over a six-year period (2011–2016).
Results: A total of 4 697 patients were included. The majority of victims were Black African males (92.1%) between the ages of 29–40 years, and stabbings were the most common mechanism of injury (71.8%), followed by gunshots. The commonest body area affected was the thorax, with a consequent haemothorax the most likely result. Weekends accounted for over 48% of all presentations – the last weekend of the month being the busiest. Region D was the area in Johannesburg with the highest trauma incidence (51.9%), with the oldest townships in Soweto found to be “hot spots”.
Conclusion: Penetrating trauma is inherently linked to alcohol abuse and interpersonal violence in South Africa,1 primarily affecting its young economic, working-class citizens. The data provided some insight into the burden, structure and challenges of our trauma system. These should be regarded as opportunities to implement change and improve our surveillance and prevention, beginning with a national trauma databank.
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