Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Safety: In the Emergency Room, Seat Belts Matter, Too

Grom the NY Times

Of people who survive car wrecks, those who weren't wearing seat belts are three times as likely to die in an emergency room as those who were, researchers say.

The findings, which appear in the current issue of Academic Emergency Medicine, are based on a review of what happened to more than 23,000 people in car wrecks in Wisconsin in 2002.

Emergency room doctors treating the victims routinely want to know if a patient was wearing a seat belt, so they know what kind of injuries to look for.

"If you're not wearing a seat belt, that's an important piece of information," said Dr. Stephen Hargarten, a co-author of the study and the chairman of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The research was led by Shane Allen, a student there.

The study also found that victims not wearing seat belts were more likely to suffer moderate to severe injuries to the head, face, chest and spine.

Those patients also cost about 25 percent more to treat in the E.R., but the expenses did not stop there. Patients who had not worn seat belts were more than twice as likely to need hospitalization as those who had. Only about a fifth were discharged from the emergency room, the study found.

"Unbelted occupants create a significant burden on the health care system," the authors wrote.


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