Trauma in children
Other namesPediatric trauma
A gunshot wound to the left thigh showing entry and exit wound of a 3 year old girl.
SpecialtyEmergency medicine

Trauma in children, also known as pediatric trauma, refers to a traumatic injury that happens to an infant, child or adolescent. Because of anatomical and physiological differences between children and adults the care and management of this population differs.

Anatomic and physiologic differences

There are significant anatomical and physiological differences between children and adults. For example, the internal organs are closer in proximity to each other in children than in adults; this places children at higher risk of traumatic injury.[1]

Children present a unique challenge in trauma care because they are so different from adults - anatomically, developmentally, physiologically and emotionally. A 2006 study concluded that the risk of death for injured children is lower when care is provided in pediatric trauma centers rather than in non-pediatric trauma centers. Yet about 10% of injured children are treated at pediatric trauma centers. The highest mortality rates occur in children who are treated in rural areas without access trauma centers.[2]

An important part of managing trauma in children is weight estimation. A number of methods to estimate weight exist, including the Broselow tape, Leffler formula, and Theron formula.[3] Of these three methods, the Broselow tape is the most accurate for weight estimation in children ≤25 kg,[3] while the Theron formula performs better with patients weighing >40 kg.[3]

Due to basic geometry, a child's weight to surface area ratio is lower than an adult's, children more readily lose their body heat through radiation and have a higher risk of becoming hypothermic.[4][5] Smaller body size in children often makes them more prone to poly traumatic injury.[6]


Pediatric Trauma Score

Several classification systems have been developed that use some combination of subjective and objective data in an effort to quantify the severity of trauma. Examples include the Injury Severity Score[7][8] and a modified version of the Glasgow Coma Scale.[9] More complex classification systems, such as the Revised Trauma Score, APACHE II,[10] and SAPS II[11] add physiologic data to the equation in an attempt to more precisely define the severity, which can be useful in triaging casualties as well as in determining medical management and predicting prognosis.

Though useful, all of these measures have significant limitations when applied to pediatric patients. For this reason, health care providers often employ classification systems that have been modified or even specifically developed for use in the pediatric population. For example, the Pediatric Glasgow Coma Scale is a modification of the Glasgow Coma Scale that is useful in patients who have not yet developed language skills.[12]

Emphasizing the importance of body weight and airway diameter, the Pediatric Trauma Score (PTS) was developed to specifically reflect the vulnerability of children to traumatic injury. The minimal score is -6 and the maximum score is +12. There is a linear relationship between the decrease in PTS and the mortality risk (i.e. the lower the PTS, the higher the mortality risk).[12] Mortality is estimated at 9% with a PTS > 8, and at 100% with a PTS ≤ 0.[citation needed]

In most cases the severity of a pediatric trauma injury is determined by the pediatric trauma score[4] despite the fact that some research has shown there is no benefit between it and the revised trauma scale.[13]


The management of pediatric trauma depends on a knowledge of the physiological, anatomical, and developmental differences in comparison to an adult patient, this requires expertise in this area.[14] In the pre-hospital setting issues may arise with the treatment of pediatric patients due to a lack of knowledge and resources involved in the treatment of these injuries.[15] Despite the fact there is only a slight variation in outcomes in adult trauma centers, definitive care is best reached at a pediatric trauma center.[16][17]


Most common causes of pediatric trauma

Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) WISQARS database for the latest year of data (2010), serious injury kills nearly 10,000 children in America each year.[18]

Pediatric trauma accounted for 59.5% of all mortality for children under 18 in 2004.[1][19] Injury is the leading cause of death in this age group in the United States—greater than all other causes combined.[20] It is also the leading cause of permanent paralysis for children.[21][22] In the US approximately 16,000,000 children go to a hospital emergency room due to some kind of injury every year.[4] Male children are more frequently injured than female children by a ratio of two to one.[4] Some injuries, including chemical eye burns, are more common among young children than among their adult counterparts; these are largely due to cleaning supplies and similar chemicals commonly found around the home.[23] Similarly, penetrating injuries in children is because of writing utensils and other common household objects as many are readily available to children in the course of their day.[24]

See also


  1. ^ a b Dickinson E, Limmer D, O'Keefe MF, Grant HD, Murray R (2008). Emergency Care (11th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. pp. 848–52. ISBN 978-0-13-500524-8.
  2. ^ Petrosyan, Mikael; Guner, Yigit S. MD; Emami, Claudia N. MD; Ford, Henri R. MD (August 2009). "Disparities in the Delivery of Pediatric Trauma Care". The Journal of Trauma. 67 (2 Supplement (Injury, Infection, and Critical Care Issue)): S114–S119. doi:10.1097/TA.0b013e3181ad3251. PMID 19667843.
  3. ^ a b c So TY, Farrington E, Absher RK (2009). "Evaluation of the accuracy of different methods used to estimate weights in the pediatric population". Pediatrics. 123 (6): e1045–51. doi:10.1542/peds.2008-1968. PMID 19482737. S2CID 6009482. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
  4. ^ a b c d Peitzman AB, Rhodes M, Schwab CW, Yealy DM, Fabian TC, eds. (2008). "Pediatric Trauma". The Trauma Manual (3rd ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 499–514. ISBN 978-0-7817-6275-5.
  5. ^ "Pediatric Trauma And Triage: Overview of the Problem and Necessary Care for Positive Outcomes" (powerpoint). Jim Morehead. Retrieved 2010-11-06.
  6. ^ Ron Walls MD; John J. Ratey MD; Robert I. Simon MD (2009). Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Expert Consult Premium Edition - Enhanced Online Features and Print (Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts & Clinical Practice (2v.)). St. Louis: Mosby. pp. 262–80. ISBN 978-0-323-05472-0.
  7. ^ Baker SP, O'Neill B, Haddon W Jr, Long WB (1974). "The Injury Severity Score: a method for describing patients with multiple injuries and evaluating emergency care". The Journal of Trauma. 14 (3): 187–96. doi:10.1097/00005373-197403000-00001. PMID 4814394.
  8. ^ Copes WS, Champion HR, Sacco WJ, Lawnick MM, Keast SL, Bain LW (1988). "The Injury Severity Score revisited". The Journal of Trauma. 28 (1): 69–77. doi:10.1097/00005373-198801000-00010. PMID 3123707.
  9. ^ Teasdale G, Jennett B (1974). "Assessment of coma and impaired consciousness. A practical scale". The Lancet. 2 (7872): 81–4. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(74)91639-0. PMID 4136544.
  10. ^ Knaus WA, Draper EA, Wagner DP, Zimmerman JE (1985). "APACHE II: a severity of disease classification system". Critical Care Medicine. 13 (10): 818–29. doi:10.1097/00003246-198510000-00009. PMID 3928249.
  11. ^ Le Gall JR, Lemeshow S, Saulnier F (1993). "A New Simplified Acute Physiology Score (SAPS II) Based on a European/North American Multicenter Study". Journal of the American Medical Association. 270 (24): 2957–63. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510240069035. PMID 8254858.
  12. ^ a b Campbell, John Creighton (2000). Basic trauma life support for paramedics and other advanced providers. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Brady/Prentice Hall Health. ISBN 978-0-13-084584-9.
  13. ^ Kaufmann CR, Maier RV, Rivara FP, Carrico CJ (January 1990). "Evaluation of the Pediatric Trauma Score". JAMA. 263 (1): 69–72. doi:10.1001/jama.263.1.69. PMID 2293691.
  14. ^ Little, Wendalyn K. (1 March 2010). "Golden Hour or Golden Opportunity: Early Management of Pediatric Trauma". Clinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine. 11 (1): 4–9. doi:10.1016/j.cpem.2009.12.005.
  15. ^ Lohr, Kathleen N.; Durch, Jane (1993). Emergency medical services for children: Committee on Pediatric Emergency Medical Services. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press. ISBN 978-0-309-04888-0.
  16. ^ Densmore JC, Lim HJ, Oldham KT, Guice KS (January 2006). "Outcomes and delivery of care in pediatric injury". J. Pediatr. Surg. 41 (1): 92–8, discussion 92–8. doi:10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2005.10.013. PMID 16410115.
  17. ^ Deasy C, Gabbe B, Palmer C, et al. (October 2011). "Paediatric and adolescent trauma care within an integrated trauma system". Injury. 43 (12): 2006–2011. doi:10.1016/j.injury.2011.08.032. PMID 21978766.
  18. ^ "CDC childhood injury report; patterns of unintentional injuries among 0-19 year olds in the United States, 2000-2006".
  19. ^ Krug SE, Tuggle DW (2008). "Management of pediatric trauma" (PDF). Pediatrics. 121 (4): 849–54. doi:10.1542/peds.2008-0094. PMID 18381551. S2CID 28319980. Retrieved 2010-11-06.
  20. ^ "Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma". Retrieved 2010-11-06.
  21. ^ Aghababian, Richard (2010). Essentials of Emergency Medicine. Jones & Bartlett Learning. pp. 992–1000. ISBN 978-0-7637-6652-8.
  22. ^ Moore, Ernest J; Feliciano, David V.; Mattox, Kenneth L. (2008). Trauma. McGraw-Hill Medical. pp. 993–1000. ISBN 978-0-07-146912-8.
  23. ^ Haring RS, Sheffield ID, Channa R, Canner JK, Schneider EB (August 2016). "Epidemiologic trends of chemical ocular burns in the United States". JAMA Ophthalmology. 134 (10): 1119–1124. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.2645. PMID 27490908.
  24. ^ Fisher, S. B.; Clifton, M. S.; Bhatia, A. M. (September 2011). "Pencils and pens: An under-recognized source of penetrating injuries in children". The American Surgeon. 77 (8): 1076–1080. doi:10.1177/000313481107700831. PMID 21944527. S2CID 24546416.

Further reading