About 20 children per day in the U.S. are injured by firearms seriously enough to require hospitalization, and more than 6% of these children die from their injuries, according to a study.
John Leventhal, MD, of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., and his team studied children and adolescents younger than age 20 at the time of admission to the hospital in 2009. In that year, in the U.S., 7,391 hospitalizations occurred in this age group because of firearm injuries, and 453 of those young patients died while in the hospital.
Most of these hospitalizations (4,559) resulted from assaults, but in children younger than age 10, 75% of the almost 400 hospitalizations were due to unintentional or accidental injuries, the researchers reported Jan. 27 on the website of the journal Pediatrics.
Leventhal and his team found that the most common types of firearm injuries included open wounds (52%), fractures (50%) and internal injuries of the thorax, abdomen or pelvis (34%).
Traumatic brain injuries occurred most often in children younger than 5. Children who survive firearm injuries often require extensive follow-up treatment once released from the hospital, including rehabilitation, home healthcare, hospital readmission from delayed effects of the injury and mental health or social services, the researchers noted.
These data highlight the toll of gun-related injuries that extends beyond high-profile cases, and those children and adolescents who die before being hospitalized, Leventhal said in a news release.
Pediatricians and other healthcare providers can play an important role in preventing these injuries through counseling about firearm safety, including safe storage, Leventhal said, pointing to American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that if there is a gun in a childs home, it must be stored unloaded and locked, with the ammunition locked separately.
Study (PDF): http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/01/22/peds.2013-1809.full.pdf