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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: January 2010

1 - Mechanisms and Demographics in Trauma

    • By Pedro Barbieri, Department of Anesthesia, Hospital Britanico de Buenos Aires, University of El Salvador School of Medicine, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Daniel H. Gomez, Department of Anesthesia, Hospital Universitario Austral, Pilar, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Peter F. Mahoney, Military Critical Care, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, United Kingdom, Pablo Pratesi, Department of Emergency Medicine, Austral University Hospital, Pilar, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Christopher M. Grande, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pennsylvania, and International TraumaCare (ITACCS), Baltimore, Maryland
  • Edited by Charles E. Smith, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • DOI:
  • pp 1-8



The aim of this chapter is to put trauma in context as a major health issue and give practitioners an understanding of the underlying causes and mechanisms.


Injury is the leading cause of death in people aged between 1 and 44 years in the United States and a leading cause of death worldwide [1]. It can be defined as a “physical harm or damage to the structure or function of the body, caused by an acute exchange of energy (mechanical, chemical, thermal, radioactive, or biological) that exceeds the body's tolerance” [2, 3].

In 2002, 33 million patients were processed by emergency departments in the United States, and 161,269 died by traumatic injury [4]. Trauma is the leading cause of years of potential life lost for people younger than 75 years and this implies a huge expense to the health care system and massive amounts of resources used for care and rehabilitation [5].

Demographics is the statistical study of human populations, especially with reference to size and density, distribution, and vital statistics. Data on the demographics of trauma in the United States have been obtained from a number of sources listed in the references to this chapter.


In a recent report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the FBI estimated that more than 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, and an estimated 254,000 persons were injured in crashes where police reported that alcohol was present – an average of one person injured approximately every two minutes.

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