BACKGROUND: Epidemiologic trends in trauma-related mortality in the United States require updating and characterization. We hypothesized that during the past decade, there have been changing trends in mortality that are associated with multiple public health and health care–related factors.
METHODS: Multiple sources were queried for the period of 2002 to 2010: the National Trauma Data Bank, the National Centers for Disease Control, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, and the US Census Bureau. The incidence of injury and mortality for motor vehicle traffic (MVT) collisions, firearms, and falls were determined using National Centers for Disease Control data. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data were used to determine motor vehicle collision information. Injury severity data were derived from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample and National Trauma Data Bank. Analysis of mortality trends by year was performed using the Cochran-Armitage test for trend. Time-trend multivariable Poisson regression was used to determine risk-adjusted mortality over time.
RESULTS: From 2002 to 2010, the total trauma-related mortality decreased by 6% (p < 0.01). However, mortality trends differed by mechanism. There was a 27% decrease in the MVT death rate associated with a 20% decrease in motor vehicle collisions, 19% decrease in the number of occupant injuries per collision, lower injury severity, and improved outcomes at trauma centers. While firearm-related mortality remained relatively unchanged, mortality caused by firearm suicides increased, whereas homicide-associated mortality decreased (p < 0.001 for both). In contrast, fall-related mortality increased by 46% (5.95–8.70, p < 0.01).
CONCLUSION: MVT mortality rates have decreased during the last decade, owing in part to decreases in the number and severity of injuries. Conversely, fall-related mortality is increasing and is projected to exceed both MVT and firearm mortality rates should current trends continue. Trauma systems and injury prevention programs will need to take into account these changing trends to best accommodate the needs of the injured population.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Epidemiologic study, level III.