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Can external signs of trauma guide management?: Lessons learned from suicide bombing attacks in Israel.

BACKGROUND: Following a suicide bombing attack, scores of victims suffering from a combination of blast injury, penetrating injury, and burns are brought to local hospitals.

OBJECTIVE: To identify external signs of trauma that would assist medical crews in recognizing blast lung injury (BLI) and effectively triaging salvageable and nonsalvageable victims.

DESIGN: Retrospective analysis of all 15 suicide bombing attacks that occurred in Israel from April 1994 to August 1997.

SETTING: National survey.

PATIENTS: One hundred fifty-three victims died and 798 were injured as a result of 15 attacks. Medical records were reviewed for external signs of trauma, such as burns and penetrating injuries, and the presence of BLI. Main Outcome Measure The odds ratio for BLI and death.

RESULTS: Three settings were targeted: buses, semiconfined spaces, and open spaces. Sixty survivors (7.5%) suffered from BLI, which was more common in buses (37 of 260) than semiconfined spaces (14 of 279) and open spaces (9 of 259) (P<.001). Victims with BLI were more likely to suffer from penetrating injury to the head or torso, burns covering more than 10% of the body surface area, and skull fractures (odds ratios, 4, 11.6, and 55.8, respectively; P<.001). Victims who died at the scene were more likely to suffer from burns, open fractures, and amputations in comparison with survivors (odds ratios, 6.5, 18.6, and 50.1, respectively; P<.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Following a suicide bombing attack, external signs of trauma should be used to triage victims to the appropriate level of care both at the scene and in the hospital. Triage of salvageable and nonsalvageable victims should take into account the presence of amputations, burns, and open fractures.

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