Adjusting our view of injury risk: The burden of nonfatal injuries in infancy

Elizabeth C. Powell*, Robert R. Tanz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Objective. To describe the incidence, external cause, and types of injuries among infants treated in US emergency departments (EDs) and to compare the external cause of nonfatal to fatal injuries. Design. ED survey from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey for 1992-1999 and NCHS mortality data. Patients. National probability sample of patients treated in EDs; data for children <1 year old were used. Outcome Measures. Incidence and external cause of nonfatal injury among infants. Rates were calculated using NCHS data for live births. Results. The 8-year annualized, weighted estimate of infant injuries was 426 957, a rate of 108.2 per 1000 infant years (95% confidence interval [CI]: 94.8-121.5). There were no significant differences in rates by sex, race, or ethnicity. An estimated 6% were admitted to the hospital (admission rate: 6.1 per 1000). Most injuries occurred in the home. Head trauma accounted for injuries in 12% of children (injury rate: 13.4 per 1000 per year [95% CI: 9.3-17.3]; 21% of children with head trauma had a skull fracture or an intracranial injury. An estimated 30.2 per 1000 (95% CT: 23.8-36.6) had face trauma and 23.9 per 1000 (95% CI: 18.2-29.6) had extremity injuries; open wounds or superficial injuries accounted for many of these injuries. An estimated 4% had extremity fractures (annual rate: 4.6/1000). Falls were the most frequent cause of injury (an estimated 35.1 per 1000 infant years). The rate of motor vehicle traffic injuries was 8.8 per 1000. Foreign bodies accounted for an estimated 5.2 injuries and poisonings for an estimated 3.8 injuries per 1000 infant years. A comparison with infant mortality data showed the ratio of nonfatal to fatal falls to be 8789:1. The ratio of nonfatal to fatal motor vehicle traffic injuries was 197:1. There were an estimated 1271 nonfatal poisonings for each poisoning fatality. Conclusions. Nonfatal injuries far outnumber fatalities. Injuries from falls are very common, but they are rarely fatal. Surveillance of nonfatal injuries is essential to accurately describe and understand the burden of injury among infants. Prevention strategies must be developed to address extremely frequent, less serious injuries in infancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)792-796
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2002


  • Falls
  • Infant
  • Injury
  • Motor vehicle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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