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BACKGROUND: Pediatric injuries are associated with significant morbidity and mortality, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Despite the magnitude of this burden, there is lack of data to characterize the etiology and risk factors associated with childhood injuries, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The aim of this article is to describe the demographics, mechanisms, and severity of injuries during a 10-year time period using hospital-based data in Cape Town, South Africa.

METHODS: Data from Childsafe South Africa's registry were used to study injured children younger than 13 years who presented with either intentional or unintentional injuries to the Trauma Unit of the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital's (RCH) Causality Department between 1996 and 2007. Univariate and bivariate analyses were performed for demographic characteristics and injury mechanisms. Poisson regression analysis was used to analyze the age-adjusted annual incidence of injury presenting to RCH.

RESULTS: Between 1997 and 2006, 62,782 children with a total of 68,883 injuries presented to RCH. The mean age was 5.4 years (standard deviation /- 3.5 years) and 61.7% were male. Mechanism of injury included falls (39.8%), road traffic injuries (15.7%), burns (8.8%), and assault (7.4%). The majority of injuries occurred in and around the home. Abbreviated injury severity scoring showed 60.2% of injuries were minor, 36.6% were moderate, and 3.2% were severe. Sixty-six deaths occurred in the trauma casualty department. Thirty-one percent of patients were admitted to the hospital; children who suffered burn and head injuries were more likely to require admission.

CONCLUSION: Age, gender, mechanism, and severity of injury in pediatric populations have not been described elsewhere in South African national or sub-Saharan regional data. This retrospective, observational study uses Level II evidence to suggest the need for targeted interventions to address risk factors for pediatric injuries, emphasizing the importance of pediatric surveillance systems as a tool to study injuries in developing countries.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Prognostic study, level II.

(C) 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.