Research

Repeat injuries in childhood

S M Peters, M-A Davies, A B van As

Abstract


Background. Injury remains a leading cause of childhood morbidity and mortality in the developing world. The probability of injury occurrence is influenced by agent, host and environmental factors. Studies of repeat injuries in childhood therefore provide insight into factors in the epidemiological triad predisposing children to injury.

Objectives. To determine the proportion of children and the factors associated with repeat presentations to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital Trauma Unit (RCWMCH TU) in Cape Town, South Africa, for all non-transport-related injuries in childhood.

Methods. This was a retrospective cohort study using data from the RCWMCH TU. We included children aged 0 - 10 years with first presentation from January 1997 to June 2013 and followed up until the earlier of age 13 years or June 2016. We assessed individual and population-level factors associated with repeat injury using multilevel Poisson regression analysis. Child dependency ratios were derived from the 2011 National Census.

Results. Between 1997 and 2013, 72 490 children aged <10 years (59% male) presented to the RCWMCH TU for the first time with injuries. After the initial injury, 9 417 (13%) presented with a repeat injury by 2016 and before age 13 years. After adjusting for health subdistrict, distance from RCWMCH TU and age at first presentation, factors associated with reduced repeat presentation were injury identified as due to abuse (adjusted incidence rate ratio (aIRR) 0.6; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.4 - 0.7), fluid burn (aIRR 0.6; 95% CI 0.6 - 0.7), foreign body ingestion (aIRR 0.7; 95% CI 0.7 - 0.9), and moderate and severe (v. minor) initial injury (aIRR 0.9; 95% CI 0.8 - 0.9 and aIRR 0.7; 95% CI 0.6 - 0.8, respectively), while boys were more likely to have repeat injury presentations (aIRR 1.4; 95% CI 1.4 - 1.5).

Conclusions. Repeat presentations were substantial and associated with male gender. They occurred less commonly after fluid burn injuries, foreign body ingestion and moderate to severe injuries. Children with intentional injuries were also less likely to have a repeat presentation. Further research is indicated for childhood injuries with greater propensity to repeat, including non-height falls and sport-related injuries. Secondary injury prevention education should not neglect patients with unintentional and minor injuries. These results strengthen the hypothesis that injuries arise as a result of sustained exposure to agent, host and environmental risk factors.


Authors' affiliations

S M Peters, Executive Management, Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town; Health Impact Assessment Unit, Western Cape Government: Health, Cape Town; and School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

M-A Davies, Health Impact Assessment Unit, Western Cape Government: Health, Cape Town; and School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

A B van As, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town; and Trauma Unit, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

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Keywords

Paediatric trauma; Paediatrics; Trauma; Geographic information systems; Spatial epidemiology; Repeated injuries; Accidental injury; Non-accidental injury

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2020;110(12):1218-1225. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i12.14546

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-11-27
Date published: 2020-11-27

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