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Interpersonal violence: quantifying the burden of injury in a South African trauma centre
  1. Sumrit Bola1,
  2. Isabella Dash1,
  3. Maheshwar Naidoo1,
  4. Colleen Aldous2
  1. 1Department of Surgery, Ngwelezane Hospital, Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  2. 2Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Miss S Bola, Department of Otolaryngology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, OX3 9DU, UK: sbola{at}


Introduction Interpersonal violence is an epidemic in South Africa and remains an under-reported and expensive burden on health resources. In most of the developing world there is little or no descriptive information about the expense of treating the consequences of interpersonal violence.

Objective To review the direct burden of interpersonal violence on a tertiary hospital in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, an area known to have high rates of poverty and violent crime.

Material and methods A retrospective case note review of emergency hospital admissions between January and March 2013 was carried out. The reports included demographic characteristics, admitting diagnosis and surgical management. Case files were reviewed to determine cost drivers, such as radiological investigations, blood products, theatre usage and specialist care.

Results Trauma accounted for 374 hospital admissions from the emergency department, of which 142 (38%) were attributable to interpersonal violence (16% of total admissions). One hundred and fifty-six hospital bed days were used over the study period. The average inpatient stay was 9.8 days with 58% requiring a resuscitation bed on admission. One-third of patients underwent emergency surgery and eight patients required postoperative intensive care. The minimum hospital expenditure for interpersonal violence injuries over 3 months was R8 367 788 ($783 960).

Discussion Interpersonal violence is the source of a significant financial burden on the South African health system. Patients are often severely injured and require a high level of specialist investigations and surgical care. This study gives evidence to improve budget and workload planning for regional surgical departments and supports the need for more effective primary prevention.

  • violence, interpersonal
  • Trauma
  • emergency care systems, remote and rural medicine
  • cost effectiveness
  • imaging

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