The pyramid of injury: Using ecodes to accurately describe the burden of injury

Michael C. Wadman, Robert L. Muelleman, J. Arturo Coto, Arthur L. Kellermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Study objective: Although much is known about injury-related deaths from the use of external cause of injury codes (ecodes) on death certificates, the contribution of nonfatal injury is unknown, with most information based on estimates from national surveys. Some states mandate ecoding of charts for hospitalized patients, but few require ecode assignment for emergency department (ED) records. Missouri and Nebraska mandated ecoding of ED records in 1993 and 1994, respectively, allowing for a more complete description of injuries in those states. We describe fatal and nonfatal injury frequencies in Missouri and Nebraska by using ecodes, with graphic representation in the form of injury pyramids. Methods: Ecode frequencies for 1996 to 1998 for all injury causes in Missouri and Nebraska were reported directly from their respective health departments. The ecode frequencies were grouped according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's ecode matrix for presenting injury and mortality data. Results: During the study period, 13,052 deaths, 131,210 hospitalizations, and 1,914,140 ED visits occurred as the result of injury. The most frequent lethal injuries were unintentional motor vehicle crashes (32.3% of total deaths), self-inflicted gunshot wound (13.2%), unintentional falls (11.3%), gunshot wound from an assault (7.7%), and unintentional poisoning (4.3%). The leading causes of injury-related hospitalization were unintentional falls (47.8% of total hospitalizations), unintentional motor vehicle crashes (15.5%), self-inflicted poisoning (6.5%), and overexertion or strenuous movements (2.4%). Of 1.9 million ED injury visits, unintentional falls accounted for 24.3%, unintentionally being struck by an object or person for 14.6%, unintentional motor vehicle crashes for 11.4%, unintentionally being cut or pierced for 10.7%, and overexertion or strenuous movements for 8.5%. Conclusion: Ecoding in Missouri and Nebraska provides a comprehensive data retrieval system that allows for a graphic depiction of the burden of injury derived from real patient encounters within specific geographic regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)468-478
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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