Profile of children with head injuries treated at the trauma unit of Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital

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South African Medical Journal

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University of Cape Town

Objective. To describe the profile of childhood head injury patients treated in a trauma unit. Design. A retrospective record-based study. Setting. The trauma unit of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. Subjects. Children (under 13 years of age) presenting with head injuries between January 1991 and December 2001. Results. Of the almost 94 000 records, more than one-third were children presenting with head injuries. Fifty-nine per cent were boys, with more than half the sample under 5 years of age. The majority of children presented with superficial lacerations and abrasions, mostly affecting the scalp and skull. Injuries were mainly caused by falls from a variety of heights, and traffic-related injuries. Almost twothirds of traffic-related injuries involved children as pedestrians being struck by a motor vehicle. More than 60% of injuries occurred in or around the child’s own home. Conclusions. Head injuries in children are a significant cause of morbidity. Prevention, especially in the home and on the streets, needs urgent attention.