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Journal Article


Song DH, Naude GP, Gilmore DA, Bongard F. J. Trauma 1996; 40(5): 810-815.


Division of Trauma and Critical Care, Department of Surgery, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, California 90509, USA.


(Copyright © 1996, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins)






Gang related violence in Los Angeles County has increased, with homicides increasing from 205 in 1982 to 803 in 1992. This study examines the medical and financial consequences of such violence on a level I trauma center. Of 856 gunshot injuries over a 29-month period, 272 were gang related. There were 55 pediatric and 217 adult patients. Eighty-nine percent were male and 11% were female. Trauma Score averaged 14.7 +/- 3.1, Glasgow Coma Scale average score was 13.7 +/- 3.4, and the mean Injury Severity Score was 10.8 +/- 14. Twenty-two percent of the gunshots were to the head and neck, 20% to the chest, 20% to the abdomen, 6% had a peripheral vascular injury, and 33% sustained an extremity musculoskeletal injury. Emergency surgery was performed on 43%, including laparotomy 58 (49%), craniotomy 16 (13%), laparoscopy 14 (12%), vascular procedures 10 (8%), orthopedic procedures 6 (5%), head and neck endoscopies 4 (3%), thoracotomies 2 (2%), and 10 (8%) unspecified. There were 25 deaths (9%), primarily caused by head injuries and exsanguinating hemorrhage. Eighty-six percent entered the hospital during the hours of minimal staffing that preempted the use of facilities for other emergent patients. Charges totaled $4,828,828 (emergency room, surgical procedures, intensive care, and surgical ward stay) which equated to $5,550 per patient per day. Fifty-eight percent had no third party reimbursement, 22% had Medi-Cal, and 20% had medical insurance. Because of dismal reimbursement rates, the costs of gang violence are passed on to the tax payer. The cost of gang related violence cannot be derived from hospital charges only, because death, disability, and pain are not entered into the calculation. Education, increased social programs, and strict criminal justice laws and enforcement may decrease gang related violence and the drain it has on financial and medical resources.


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