Road accident injuries 'getting more serious'

2 hospitals point to rising number of grievously hurt trauma patients

Injuries suffered by victims of road traffic accidents are becoming increasingly serious, according to figures from two Singapore hospitals.

Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) point to an increasing number of grievously injured trauma patients. They cited speeding, drink driving and more heavy vehicles as possible causes.

At TTSH, the number of badly injured road users has gone up by about 40 per cent.

In 2008, 129 road users - drivers, motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists - had injury severity scores above 16. Last year, there were 178 such patients.

Medical professionals use a scoring system to assess how badly injured a trauma patient is.

The higher the score, the more critically injured the patient and the more likely he is to die from his injuries. A score of 16 to 25 indicates moderate to severe injuries. Anything above 25 is very severe, with these patients facing a 50 per cent chance of dying.

Motorcyclists tend to sustain head and limb injuries, while car users are more prone to abdominal and chest trauma. Cyclists and pedestrians are at risk of injuries to any part of the body.

A significant percentage of the road traffic accident patients required plastic surgery too, said TTSH's head of plastic surgery, Dr Cheong Ee Cherk.

TTSH trauma surgeon Teo Li Tserng said: "High-speed crashes tend to result in worse injuries. A higher number of cars, a higher population density, and speeding: It's a recipe for a major accident to happen."

KTPH, which opened in Yishun in 2010, has already observed a doubling in the number of severely injured trauma patients.

In 2011, it recorded 161 major trauma cases, of which about 40 per cent involved road traffic accidents.

This went up to 291 cases last year, which included more than 100 road traffic accident patients.

KTPH's main trauma casualties tend to be in the 25 to 34 age group, which is reflective of a higher likelihood of risk-taking behaviour, said its acute and emergency care consultant Goh E Shaun, who added that a rise in building activity in the north has resulted in more large construction vehicles using roads in residential areas.

In the first three months of this year, 21 heavy vehicles and buses were involved in fatal accidents. In the same period last year, there were only 15.

Fortunately, the National University Hospital and Singapore General Hospital (SGH) are not seeing these rising trends.

SGH trauma services director Jeremy Ng said the hospital has averaged 150 to 200 such cases a year in the last three to four years.

melpang@sph.com.sg