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Traumatic injury remains a leading cause of death, disability in Southeast

Posted: June 19, 2013 - 12:02am

As part of a community service project during his five-month medical school rotation at Bartlett Regional Hospital, Daniel Carlson sifted through data from the Alaska Trauma Registry to compile numbers that represent trauma victims in Southeast Alaska.

The state has the third highest trauma mortality rate in the nation due in part to its seclusion and lack of available resources, according to the state division of public health.

“The reason I pulled out this data is because people look at trauma rates in Alaska,” Carlson said, “but no one had looked at just Southeast Alaska and considered the details.”

In an effort to address these problems in Juneau, Carlson identified the top five most common causes of traumatic injury and ways to prevent them.

Falls were ranked as the number one and motor vehicles accidents as the number two leading cause of death and disability among trauma victims in Southeast Alaska for the years between 2001 and 2011, the years from when the data were collected.

Carlson used a mortality and morbidity metric, ranking incidents on a basis of what level of functioning the injured could return to.

“I tried to sort them by cause, not diagnosis,” Carlson said.

According to Carlson, the easiest ways to prevent traumatic injuries is through common sense and awareness — the purpose of his project.

In recent years, Alaska had been ranked second highest trauma mortality rate in the nation. The change came in between 2010 and 2012 when level 4 trauma centers throughout the state nearly tripled.

There are no level 1 trauma centers in the state, with the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage being the highest at level 2. The closest level 1 center for trauma care is in Seattle, 900 miles south and further amplifies the effects on trauma care statewide.

Bartlett Regional Hospital was certified as a level 4 center in 2012.

Carlson says he’s hopeful that by making the public more aware of what they can do to prevent traumatic harm to themselves or others, these numbers can become lower in coming years.

“If people read this and become more aware of how Alaskans are affected by trauma, then that,” Carlson said, “would be a success in my opinion.”

Carlson is currently a fourth-year medical student at the University of Washington. He completed his undergraduate in chemistry at Loyola University Chicago and his graduate degree at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

• Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

Leading Causes of Traumatic Injuries in SE Alaska

1. Falls – 42% occur at home with 20% involved alcohol

2. Motor Vehicle Accidents – More likely to be fatal accidents, 40% involved alcohol

3. Suicide – 77% of attempts involved alcohol, drugs

4. Fishing and Boating Accidents – 18% involved alcohol, drugs

5. Pedestrian and Biking – 60 % were not wearing a helmet with 28% involving alcohol, drugs

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