Severe upper extremity injuries in frontal automobile crashes: the effects of depowered airbags

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BackgroundThe purpose of this study was to determine the effects of depowered frontal airbags on the incidence of severe upper extremity injuries.MethodsThe National Automotive Sampling System database files from 1993 to 2000 were examined in a study that included 2,413,347 occupants who were exposed to an airbag deployment in the United States.ResultsOccupants exposed to a depowered airbag deployment were significantly more likely to sustain a severe upper extremity injury (3.9%) than those occupants exposed to a full-powered airbag deployment (2.5%) (P = .01). Full-powered systems resulted in an injury distribution of 89.2% fractures and 7.9% dislocations compared with depowered systems with 55.3% fractures and 44.3% dislocations.ConclusionsAlthough depowered airbags were designed to reduce the risk of injuries, they appear to have increased the overall incidence of severe upper extremity injuries through a shift from long bone fractures to joint dislocations.

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