Motor Vehicle Collisions Most Frequent Cause of Severe Injuries; 1 in 8 Involves Alcohol, Reports CIHI

Executive Summary

January 24, 2002 – In 1999/2000, almost half (48%) of all
reported severe injuries in Canada were caused by motor vehicle collisions, according to a
new report released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Of
these, 1 in 8 involved alcohol consumption above the national legal limit.

“Motor vehicle collisions that result in severe
injuries place a significant burden on Canada’s health care system,” says Greg
Webster, Manager of Clinical Registries at CIHI. “This is particularly true in the
younger age groups, where motor vehicle collisions are responsible for an overwhelming
majority of severe injuries.” Motor vehicle collisions accounted for 65% of severe
injury admissions in the 15 to 24 age category in 1999/2000.

The CIHI report, National Trauma Registry: Major Injury in
Canada, 1999/2000, draws upon data from the National Trauma Registry (NTR). Data for this
report are submitted voluntarily by 23 trauma facilities in five provinces (British
Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia).

Causes of Injury Vary by Age

The causes of severe injuries vary with age. In 1999/2000,
motor vehicle collisions accounted for 60% of all severe injuries for people between the
ages of 20 and 34, while only 12% of admissions in this age group were due to falls. In
contrast, 58% of severe injuries in people aged 65 and older were due to falls and only
31% were caused by motor vehicle collisions. Motor vehicle collisions were also the
leading cause of severe injury for people under 20 and those between 35 and 64 years of
age, accounting for 52% and 46% (respectively) of all severe injuries. “Injury
patterns are very different among seniors compared to younger adults,” explains Greg
Webster. “Many of the injuries due to falls are not as severe as those caused by
motor vehicle collisions, but result in a higher percentage of deaths, due to seniors’
decreased ability to recover.”

Severe injury admissions account for approximately 5% of
all injury admissions to Canadian hospitals. Severe injuries are defined according to an
international scoring index that assigns a level of severity to an injury. The majority of
people who are admitted due to severe injuries have surgery and consequently spend time in
an intensive care unit.

Provincial Comparisons

Among the five provinces from which data are available, the
highest percentage of motor vehicle-related severe injury admissions was in Nova Scotia
(56%) while the lowest was in Manitoba (43%). Nova Scotia also had the highest percentage
of cases (18%) with a positive blood alcohol concentration greater than the legal limit
for alcohol consumption in Canada.

Alberta had the highest percentage of work-related
admissions, as well as the largest percentage of severe injuries related to sports and
recreational activities (11% and 14%, respectively). By comparison, Manitoba had the
lowest percentages in these two categories at 6% and 7%, respectively.

Expanded Details from NTR

The National Trauma Registry has expanded to include more
details on severe injury admissions, such as work-related and sports/recreational activity
codes, protective devices (e.g. seat belt and helmet use) and location of hospital
discharge. For example, 10% of all injury admission cases involved a sports and
recreational activity at the time of the injury. The proportion of injury admissions due
to sports-related activites also varied by province, ranging from 7% in Manitoba to 14% in Alberta.

National Trauma Registry

Managed by CIHI, the National Trauma Registry (NTR)
provides data on hospitalizations resulting from injury. The goal of the Registry is to
contribute to the reduction of injuries and related deaths in Canada by providing data
that allow the examination of hospital admissions due to injury. The information is used
by policy-makers, researchers, trauma care providers and injury prevention specialists to
develop and monitor injury prevention and treatment programs.

The NTR consists of three major sources of data: a Minimal
Data Set (includes information on all admissions due to injury in Canadian acute care
hospitals); Comprehensive Data Set (provides information on patients hospitalized in
trauma facilities with severe injuries); and the Death Data Set (currently under
development; will include data on all deaths in the country due to injury, regardless of
hospitalization). CIHI’s report, National Trauma Registry: Major Injury in Canada,
1999/2000, draws upon information from the Comprehensive Data Set (CDS).

Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an
independent, pan-Canadian, not-for-profit organization working to improve the health of
Canadians and the health care system by providing quality health information. CIHI’s
mandate, as established by Canada’s health ministers, is to coordinate the development and
maintenance of a common approach to health information for Canada. To this end, CIHI is
responsible for providing accurate and timely information that is needed to establish
sound health policies, manage the Canadian health system effectively and create public
awareness of factors affecting good health.

Figure 1: Causes of Major Injury for All Cases, 1999/2000

Figure 2: Causes of Major Injury – Cases Under 20 Years of Age, 1999/2000

Figure 3: Causes of Major Injury – Cases Aged 20 to 34 Years, 1999/2000

Figure 4: Causes of Major Injury – Cases Aged 35 to 64 Years, 1999/2000

Figure 5: Causes of Major Injury – Cases Aged 65 Years and Over, 1999/2000

Table 1: Cause of Major Injury Highlights – All Cases, 1999/2000