In the Wake of Hurricane Isabel: A Prospective Study of Postevent Trauma and Injury Control Strategies

Gagnon, E. B.; Aboutanos, M. B.; Malhotra, A. K.; Dompkowski, D.; Duane, T. M.; Ivatury, R. R.
March 2005
American Surgeon;Mar2005, Vol. 71 Issue 3, p194
Academic Journal
Preventing hurricane-related injuries (HRI) has historically centered on the pre-event and event phases of the disaster. To date, no study has focused on injuries occurring during the postevent phase. We examined HRI that occurred after Hurricane Isabel struck a U.S. urban city. HRI presenting 1 week prior to the hurricane were collected from emergency department electronic records. HRI that presented to our level 1 trauma center were prospectively collected for 1 week after the hurricane. Nine hundred seventy-eight patients with possible HRI were identified. Fifty-one patients with trauma directly attributed to the hurricane were used for analysis. The number of HRI occurring before, during, and after the hurricane were 7 (14%), 3 (6%), and 41 (80%), respectively. The majority of HRI (37%) occurred on posthurricane day 1. Head, chest, upper and lower extremities accounted for 9 (18%), 8 (16%), 13 (26%), and 14 (28%) of HRI. More than one third of HRI patients were admitted to the hospital, and 12 (24%) underwent an operation. The average hospital length of stay was 4.7 days. Of our trauma alerts, 75 per cent had an Injury Severity Score (ISS) >8, and 20 per cent had an ISS >15. Tree-related injuries (TRI) accounted for 59 per cent of HRI. Males, ages 50-60, had the highest incidence of injury (63%). Significant injuries occur in the wake of a hurricane. Optimization of disaster preparation must include prevention strategies targeted to the postevent recovery phase of disasters.


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