Financial burden of orthopaedic gunshot-related injury management at a major trauma centre

Van Heukelum, M. ; Le Roux, N. ; Jakoet, S. ; Ferreira, N. (2020-08-31)

CITATION: Van Heukelum, M. et al. 2020. Financial burden of orthopaedic gunshot-related injury management at a major trauma centre. South African Medical Journal, 110(9):882-886, doi:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i9.14638.

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Background: Violence and injuries are a significant global public health concern, and have a substantial emotional, physical and economic impact on society. In South Africa (SA), the Western Cape Injury Mortality Profile shows that homicides increased from 38 deaths per 100 000 in 2010 to 52 deaths per 100 000 in 2016. This increase is directly related to an increase in firearm-related homicides, which doubled from 2010 to 2016. Previous research estimated the average cost per gunshot wound (GSW)-related orthopaedic patient at USD2 940. GSW-related patient numbers as well as treatment costs have escalated exponentially over the past few years. Objectives: To calculate the financial costs involved in managing gunshot-related orthopaedic injuries both surgically and non-surgically at a tertiary centre in SA. Methods: After ethics approval, a retrospective review of all GSW patients seen in the emergency unit at Tygerberg Hospital in 2017 was undertaken. Patient records yielded data on the following parameters: injury site and characteristics, imaging modalities, orthopaedic management, hospital admission and duration of hospitalisation, theatre episodes, orthopaedic implants and blood products administered. Cost analysis was performed using this information. Results: A total of 389 patients (360 male and 29 female), average age (range, standard deviation) 28 (3 - 69, 9.50) years, were treated during the study period. Patient records identified a total of 449 orthopaedic injuries. A total of 187 patients were admitted, with 175 requiring surgical fixation. The conservatively calculated cost of managing this patient group was ZAR10 227 503. The average management cost per patient was ZAR26 292, with an average of ZAR46 670 per case requiring surgical management and ZAR8 810 for non-surgical cases (the average USD-ZAR exchange rate in 2017 was USD1-ZAR13.30). Conclusions: The total cost of managing 389 patients with gunshot-related orthopaedic injuries at a tertiary hospital was ZAR10 227 503. Improved understanding of these costs will help the healthcare system better prioritise orthopaedic trauma funding and training and highlights the urgent need for cost-saving measures, specifically primary prevention initiatives.

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