Underestimating Injury Mortality Using Statewide Databases

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This study examines the potential for misclassifying injury-related deaths reported in Vital Statistics and assesses the rate of postdischarge death among injured patients released from hospital, emergency department (ED), and emergency medical services (EMS) care.


Statewide death certificate, inpatient, ED, and EMS databases for 1996 through 1997 were probabilistically linked and information in each database compared.


One thousand two hundred ninety-four injured inpatients or ED patients were matched with a death certificate record that listed an injury (56.3%) or illness (43.7%) as the primary cause of death. Injured decedents with an illness-coded cause of death were older (p < 0.001), with causes of death indicative of chronic medical conditions. Few deaths occurred within 30 days of inpatient discharge (6%); however, 38% and 9% of deaths in ED and EMS databases occurred after discharge from health care, respectively. Many deaths among EMS and ED patients occur in subsequent phases of care.


Estimates of injury mortality substantially increase when using multiple independent databases.

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