Severely injured patients do not disappear in a pandemic: Incidence and characteristics of severe injuries during COVID-19 lockdown in Finland

Antti Riuttanen, Ville Ponkilainen, Ilari Kuitunen, Aleksi Reito, Joonas Sirola, Ville M Mattila

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Abstract

Background and purpose - COVID-19 lockdowns have resulted in noteworthy changes in trauma admissions. We report and compare the incidence and characteristics of severe injuries (New Injury Severity Score [NISS] > 15) during the COVID-19 lockdown in Finland with earlier years. Methods - We retrospectively analyzed incidence rate, injury severity scores, injury patterns, and mechanisms of injury of all severely injured patients (NISS >15) in 4 Finnish hospitals (Tampere University Hospital, Kuopio University Hospital, Central Finland Hospital, Mikkeli Central Hospital) during the 11-week lockdown period (March 16-May 31, 2020) with comparison with a matching time period in earlier years (2016-2018). These 4 hospitals have a combined catchment area of 1,150,000 people or roughly one-fifth of the population of Finland. Results - The incidence rate of severe injuries during the lockdown period was 4.9/105 inhabitants (95% CI 3.7-6.4). The incidence rate of severe injuries during years 2016-2018 was 5.1/105 inhabitants (CI 3.9-6.5). We could not detect a significant incidence difference between the lockdown period and the 3 previous years (incidence rate difference -0.2 (CI -2.0 to 1.7). The proportion of traffic-related accidents was 55% during the lockdown period and 51% during previous years. There were no detectable differences in injury patterns. During the lockdown period, the mean age of patients was higher (53 years vs. 47 years, p = 0.03) and the rate of severely injured elderly patients (aged 70 or more) was higher (30% vs. 16%). Interpretation - Despite heavy social restrictions, the incidence of severe injuries during the lockdown period was similar to previous years. Notably, a decline in road use and traffic volumes did not reduce the number of severe traffic accidents. Although our data is compatible with a decrease of 2.0 to an increase of 1.7 severely injured patients per 105 inhabitants, we conclude that severely injured patients do not disappear even during pandemic and stabile hospital resources are needed to treat these patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa orthopaedica
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Feb 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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