SERIOUS INJURIES AND ENVIRONMENTAL DISORDERS
lVIOST PEOPLE KNOW SOMEBODY
who has experienced a potentially fatal injury or accident, even if they have not been involved in one themselves.
Susceptibility to SERIOUS INJURIES is linked to lifestyle, environment, and gender, with more than twice as many men as women sustaining a life-threatening injury, 35 Age is also an important factor, and statistics show that most injuries and 16 accidents tend to happen in adolescence and early adulthood.
In the first few years of the let century, there were about 16,500 deaths a year due to injury or poisoning in the UK, at least 11,000 of which were accidental.
One of the most common causes of fatal serious injuries is road traffic accidents. In 2003, almost 3,500 people in the UK were killed on the roads and a further 35,000 were seriously injured.
Poisoning, either due to a deliberate drug overdose or due to accidental ingestion, is the cause of more than 2,500 deaths each year in the UK. About 50,000 people are treated in hospital as a result of poisoning. In adults, poisoning is most often due to a drug overdose. However, most nonfatal accidental poisonings occur in children under the age of 5.
Burns cause about 200 deaths in the UK each year and 130,000 people need treatment in hospital. The very young and the elderly are most likely to be seriously injured as a result of burns.
Illness and injury that result from environmental factors, such as altitude and low temperatures, are becoming more common, particularly in young adults. Disorders such as frostbite, hypothermia, and altitude sickness can occur when young people take risks on holidays in remote areas with extreme climates.
Hypothermia is a particular threat to elderly people, even at home. This is because the body’s ability to regulate body temperature becomes less effective with old age. However, the most common cause of fatal injury in elderly people is a fall, which often results in one or more bone fractures. More than 2,000 elderly people die each year in England and Wales as the result of falls.
Some accident statistics indicate improving trends. For example, vehicle safety features are improving survival rates for traffic accidents. The medical management of serious injuries has also improved. Paramedics can now provide resuscitation at the scene of accidents, patients are taken to hospital more quickly, accident departments are better staffed, and intensive care units have more effective procedures for dealing with multiple injuries and shock. In addition, trauma centres have been established that specialize in treating patients who are seriously ill.
The nature and location of an injury determines its severity. For example, crush injuries to the torso tend to be more serious than those to the limbs because they may damage internal organs. The severity of gunshot and stab injuries depends on the precise location of the wounds and Whether major organs or blood vessels are involved. Poisoning and drowning may affect entire systems and damage vital organs.
The heart may be directly damaged by physical injuries, such as a stab wound,’or its function may be impaired by toxic substances in an overdose of drugs.
When the liver is injured by a cut or a blow, a large amount of blood may be lost. Drug overdoses may also damage the liver. The spleen may rupture when crushed or following a severe blow to the abdomen, resulting in severe internal bleeding. A lacerated kidney may leak urine into the surrounding tissue, which causes inflammation. An injury that tears the kidney from its blood supply causes profuse bleeding. If the intestinal wall is damaged, the contents may leak into the abdomen, causing serious infection.
A lung may collapse following a penetrating wound or become inflamed by inhaled gases or smoke in an accident or fire. If the trachea (Windpipe) is crushed or obstructed by a foreign body, asphyxia (a potentially fatal lack of oxygen) may result.
Severe burns to the skin’s protective
layer may cause large amounts of body fluid to be lost from the circulation, leading to potentially fatal shock.
If the spine is injured, the vertebrae may be fractured or displaced and damage the spinal cord, causing paralysis or death.
The brain may be damaged when a blow or other injury to the head causes internal bleeding and swelling. Such injuries can lead to the formation of a blood clot just inside the skull, causing brain tissue to become swollen and distorted. The skull is also susceptible to fractures.