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Journal Article


Liko O, Chalau P, Rosenfeld JV, Watters DA. P. N. G. Med. J. 1996; 39(2): 100-104.


Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby.


(Copyright © 1996, Medical Society of Papua New Guinea)






Head injuries are the commonest cause of death in the surgical wards in Port Moresby and the commonest cause of death in road accidents. Three prospective and retrospective studies performed over the last decade aimed to determine the pathology and outcome in 274 head injuries admitted to Goroka in 1988-1991 (4 years) and Port Moresby in 1984-1985 and 1992-1993 (total 2.5 years). Head injuries were managed by general surgeons without CT scanning or intracranial pressure monitoring. There were 196 adults and 78 (28%) children; 195 were male and 79 female. Assaults (32%), motor vehicle accidents (49%) and falls (17%) were the commonest modes of injury. The case fatality rate was 21% (57 of 274 cases). Six of the deaths were avoidable. The fatality rates for admission Glasgow Coma Scores of 3-5, 6-8 and over 9 were 81%, 21% and 3% respectively. Two patients died of infection complicating open depressed fractures. The case fatality rate for extradural haematoma was 20% and subdural haematoma 67%. Nine patients died of associated abdominal injuries. Most of the deaths were unavoidable because of the severity of primary brain injury. The speed of diagnosis and quality of care could have been improved but the most important area is management of the airway. General surgeons properly trained in trauma care (which includes emergency airway management) are well able to cope with the majority of head-injured patients in Papua New Guinea.

Language: en


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