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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574

Abstract

MARTIN, C et al. The burden of gunshot injuries on orthopaedic healthcare resources in South Africa. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2017, vol.107, n.7, pp.626-630. ISSN 2078-5135.  http://dx.doi.org/10.7196/samj.2017.v107i7.12257.

BACKGROUND. Injuries inflicted by gunshot wounds (GSWs) are an immense burden on the South African (SA) healthcare system. In 2005, Allard and Burch estimated SA state hospitals treated approximately 127 000 firearm victims annually and concluded that the cost of treating an abdominal GSW was approximately USD1 467 per patient. While the annual number of GSW injuries has decreased over the past decade, an estimated 54 870 firearm-related injuries occurred in SA in 2012. No study has estimated the burden of these GSWs from an orthopaedic perspective. OBJECTIVE. To estimate the burden and average cost of treating GSW victims requiring orthopaedic interventions in an SA tertiary level hospital. METHODS. This retrospective study surveyed more than 1 500 orthopaedic admissions over a 12-month period (2012) at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, SA. Chart review subsequently yielded data that allowed analysis of cost, theatre time, number and type of implants, duration of admission, diagnostic imaging studies performed, blood products used, laboratory studies ordered and medications administered. RESULTS. A total of 111 patients with an average age of 28 years (range 13 - 74) were identified. Each patient was hit by an average of 1.69 bullets (range 1 - 7). These patients sustained a total of 147 fractures, the majority in the lower extremities. Ninety-five patients received surgical treatment for a total of 135 procedures, with a cumulative surgical theatre time of >306 hours. Theatre costs, excluding implants, were in excess of USD94 490. Eighty of the patients received a total of 99 implants during surgery, which raised theatre costs an additional USD53 381 cumulatively, or USD667 per patient. Patients remained hospitalised for an average of 9.75 days, and total ward costs exceeded USD130 400. Individual patient costs averaged about USD2 940 (ZAR24 945) per patient. CONCLUSION. This study assessed the burden of orthopaedic firearm injuries in SA. It was estimated that on average, treating an orthopaedic GSW patient cost USD2 940, used just over 3 hours of theatre time per operation, and necessitated a hospital bed for an average period of 9.75 days. Improved understanding of the high incidence of orthopaedic GSWs treated in an SA tertiary care trauma centre and the costs incurred will help the state healthcare system better prioritise orthopaedic trauma funding and training opportunities, while also supporting cost-saving measures, including redirection of financial resources to primary prevention initiatives.

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