San Antonio Population Growth Means New Challenges For Trauma Care Centers

May 29, 2018

University Health System released its 2017 Community Trauma Report Tuesday. It describes serious injury trends in Bexar County and across South Texas, using data from those treated at University Hospital's Level I trauma center.

San Antonio gained 24,208 residents between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week. The city’s population now tops 1.5 million.

That growth has had implications for trauma care, according to Dr. Lillian Liao, director of pediatric trauma at University Hospital.

“San Antonio has seen a very high rate of population growth,” she said. “With that population growth comes an increasing number of injured people doing everyday things.”

Around a quarter of those injured are children, Liao added.

“In 2013, our center treated just over 1,000 seriously injured children,” she said. “Fast forward nearly five years, we’re seeing nearly 2,000 seriously injured children in South Texas. ...That increase is consistent across all categories of injuries”

Traumatic Injuries In Children

In 2017, the leading cause of injury for children treated at University Hospital’s trauma center was car crashes. There were 511 children treated, compared with 439 in 2016, according to the community trauma report.

Cars also injured 89 children playing in neighborhoods or walking to school in 2017. Another 45 were injured while riding their bikes, the largest number in more than a decade.

The second most common cause of injury in children were from, falls, which rose from 396 in 2016 to 439 last year. According to the UHS report, “Very young children are injured falling from beds and couches, while older children are hurt falling from bicycles or trampolines, or taking part in sports.”

Over the last several years, the number of children with deliberate gunshot wounds  increased by more than 200 percent, as well.

“The number of children injured by violence in South Texas has dramatically increased from nine in 2013 -by intentional firearm injury to 31 last year,” Liao said. “That category should have a census of zero.”

Adults

There were 5,361 seriously injured adults treated at University Hospital’s trauma center in 2017, a jump of more than 65 percent from five years ago.

Falls accounted for the most injuries in adults, with car crashes following closely behind.

“In our adult patients, it’s the falls that make up the majority of our injuries,” said Dr. Mark Muir, trauma medical director at University Hospital. “We saw over 1,500 adult patients treated for injuries related to falls last year alone. ...The biggest increase is really in our elderly patients who make up an ever-growing segment of our population.

“We’ve also found that those patients who are taking blood thinners are more likely to die of their falls than patients who aren’t taking blood thinners.”

The number of adults hurt in stabbings or cuttings also rose from 174 in 2016 to 195 in 2017.

After a period of decline from 2012-2015, the number of motorcycle injuries rose in 2016 and 2017, with 296 adult patients treated last year.

Carson Frame can be reached at carson@tpr.org or on Twitter @carson_frame