Are Gunshot Injuries Becoming More Lethal?

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Gunshot victims are four times more likely to die before reaching a hospital than they were a decade ago, finds a new nationwide analysis from Johns Hopkins University. The findings suggest that gunshot injuries may be growing more lethal, The Trace reports. The study’s lead author, Dr. Joseph Sakran, said he was partly inspired by a Baltimore Sun investigation called “Shoot to Kill.” That series revealed that the odds of survival for gunshot victims “worsened in at least 10 of the nation’s largest cities,” and that people who were shot were more likely to die compared to gunshot victims just 10 or 15 years earlier. Sakran, director of emergency general surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, sought to examine the issue from a national and more scientific perspective. “We wanted to look at pre-hospital mortality — death that happens before patients are taken care of in the hospital — and in-hospital mortality, death after patients arrive to the hospital,” Sakran said.

Sakran partnered with other researchers from Johns Hopkins, the University of Toronto, and the University of Arizona to analyze statistics from the National Trauma Data Bank. They focused on patients ages 15 or older who experienced gunshot or stab wounds between 2007 and 2014. When they looked at where patients died, they discovered a striking trend: The rate of pre-hospital death rose significantly, while the rate of in-hospital death decreased. Specifically, the odds of a gunshot victim dying before reaching a trauma center increased fourfold, while the odds of a stabbing victim dying increased by eight.The authors are not sure how to explain the uptick in pre-hospital mortality, but they offer a few ideas. One is that the “intensity” of gunshot injuries has increased — that people are being shot by more rounds, or at closer proximity. They also say that some victims may live too far from a trauma center. The study appeared this month in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.

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