Maiming and death due to dog bites are uncommon but preventable tragedies. We postulated that patients admitted to a level I trauma center with dog bites would have severe injuries and that the gravest injuries would be those caused by pit bulls.
We reviewed the medical records of patients admitted to our level I trauma center with dog bites during a 15-year period. We determined the demographic characteristics of the patients, their outcomes, and the breed and characteristics of the dogs that caused the injuries.
Our Trauma and Emergency Surgery Services treated 228 patients with dog bite injuries; for 82 of those patients, the breed of dog involved was recorded (29 were injured by pit bulls). Compared with attacks by other breeds of dogs, attacks by pit bulls were associated with a higher median Injury Severity Scale score (4 vs. 1; P = 0.002), a higher risk of an admission Glasgow Coma Scale score of 8 or lower (17.2% vs. 0%; P = 0.006), higher median hospital charges ($10,500 vs. $7200; P = 0.003), and a higher risk of death (10.3% vs. 0%; P = 0.041).
Attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs. Strict regulation of pit bulls may substantially reduce the US mortality rates related to dog bites.