Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Causes of fatal childhood accidents involving head injury in northern region, 1979-86.

British Medical Journal 1990; 301 doi: (Published 24 November 1990) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1990;301:1193
  1. P M Sharples,
  2. A Storey,
  3. A Aynsley-Green,
  4. J A Eyre
  1. Department of Child Health, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.


    OBJECTIVE--To examine the causes and circumstances surrounding fatal accidents involving head injuries in children in the Northern region. DESIGN--Retrospective review of the hospital case notes, necropsy reports, and records of the coroners' inquests. SETTING--Northern Regional Health Authority. PATIENTS--All 255 children aged less than 16 years who died with a head injury during 1979-86. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Cause of injury and circumstances of accident according to reports of inquests; injury severity score; number of fatal accidents and mortality per 100,000 children in 10 groups of local authority wards ranked according to their score on the overall deprivation index; and distance of site of accident from child's home. RESULTS--Of the 255 children who died after a head injury, 136 (53%) children were playing at the time of the accident. 195 (76%) children sustained the head injury in road traffic accidents, 135 as pedestrians, 35 as cyclists, and 25 as passengers in a vehicle. In 120 accidents in child pedestrians the primary cause of accident was the unsafe behaviour of the child. 172 (67%) accidents occurred within one to two km of the child's home and 153 (63%) between 3 pm and 9 pm. The mortality was significantly related to social deprivation; excluding eight children injured while on holiday in the region, 15-fold decrease in mortality was recorded between the local authority wards that ranked highest on the overall deprivation index and those that ranked lowest (14.0/100,000 children, group 10 v 0.9/100,000, group 1 respectively, p less than 0.00001). CONCLUSIONS--The finding that most accidents occurred in children living in deprived areas who were playing unsupervised near their home suggests that childhood mortality might be appreciably reduced if children at play were protected from traffic, particularly in socially deprived areas.