JOURNAL ARTICLE

Epidemiology and prevention of fatal head injuries in Germany—trends and the impact of the reunification

W I Steudel, F Cortbus, K Schwerdtfeger
Acta Neurochirurgica 2005, 147 (3): 231-42; discussion 242
15627922

UNLABELLED: A review of the data published on the epidemiology of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) reveals that the data of almost all studies are drawn from local or regional series. Nationwide data are rarely available, or are extrapolated from regional data. In Germany, there has been a nationwide mortality register with ICD-9-coded diagnoses since 1968. In addition, it has been compulsory since 1994 that all hospitals in Germany provide ICD-9 data on all admissions and discharges. Based on data provided by the Federal Bureau of Statistics (Statistisches Bundesamt) in Wiesbaden, all head injuries between 1972 and 1998 were analyzed according to ICD-9 and after 1998 according to the updated ICD-10. The data of hospitalized cases and fatal cases were correlated with population data to calculate incidences and mortality rates. Age-group specific data were also available and analyzed. Head injuries in Germany accounted in 1998 for 19.59% of all injuries. The incidence is 337/100,000. The incidence rate of serious head injury is 33.5/100,000. Mortality decreased continuously from 27.2/100,000 in 1972 to 9.0/100,000 in 2000. The mortality is highest in the group older than 75 years. 68.4% of persons with head injury die before admission to a hospital. After the reunification in 1989/1990, the number of fatal head injuries showed a temporary increase. The number of patients treated in-hospital remained essentially unchanged (276/564 patients in 1998). The majority of hospitalized patients suffered minor head injury.

CONCLUSION: Analysis of the admission/discharge data of all German hospitals reveals surprising inside views of age group-related incidence and mortality rates of head injuries in this country. Future research should be focused on patients with minor head injuries who account for nearly 200,000 cases of in-hospital treatment.

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