Trauma burden in Tanzania: a one-day survey of all district and regional public hospitals

Background: Trauma contributes significantly to the burden of disease and mortality throughout the world, but particularly in developing countries. In Tanzania, there is an enormous research gap on trauma; the limited data available reflects realities in cities and areas with moderately- to highly-resourced treatment centers. Our aim was to provide a description of the injury epidemiology across all of Tanzania. Our data will serve as a basis for future larger studies. Methods: This is a subgroup analysis of a cross-sectional, prospective study of the clinical epidemiology of patients presenting at all public district and regional hospitals in Tanzania. The study was conducted between May 2012 and December 2012. A team of emergency doctors used a purpose-designed data collection sheet to gather the demographic and clinical information of all patients presenting during the day-site visit to each hospital. Descriptive statistics, including means, standard deviations, medians, and ranges are reported. Results: A total of 5227 patients were seen in 24-h period in 105 (100% response rate) district (or designated district) and regional hospitals in mainland Tanzania. Of these patients, 508 (9.7%) presented with trauma-related complaints. Among patients with trauma-related complaints, 286 (56.3%) were male, and the overall median age of 30 (interquartile range of 22–35) years. Road traffic crash was the most common mechanism of injury, accounting for 227 (44.7%) complaints. Open wounds and bone fractures were the two most frequent diagnoses, with a combined 300 (59%) cases. Most of the patients - 325 (64%) - were discharged, 11 (2.2%) went to operating theatres and 4 (0.8%) of patients died while receiving care at the acute intake areas. Conclusions: Trauma-related complaints constitute a substantial burden among patients seeking care in acute intake areas of hospitals across Tanzania. There is a need to develop, implement and study systems that can support the improvement of trauma care and optimize outcomes of trauma patients.