Charges incurred at these hospitals accounted for nearly 70 percent of the $842 million in total hospital charges for motorcycle-related cases in 2001, say Jeffrey Coben, M.D., of Allegheny General Hospital, and colleagues. Their analysis appears in the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The high costs at these hospitals might be due in part to the fact that patients with motorcycle-related head injuries were more likely to be admitted to urban teaching hospitals, Coben says.
"These patients had longer stays, with higher total charges. They were also more likely to be self-pay. These cases likely contribute a substantial economic burden to academic medical centers," he explains.
About 16 percent of patients hospitalized for motorcycle-injuries were uninsured, Coben and colleagues found. Another 10 percent used public insurance like Medicaid during their hospitalizations.
The researchers also found that head injuries were more likely in traffic accidents, compared to non-traffic incidents like farm or parking lot crashes. Broken legs were the most common injury sustained among hospitalized riders.
Coben and colleagues' nationwide hospital sample agrees with other findings from earlier reports about motorcycle injuries. Men are much more likely than women to be injured on a motorcycle; in 2001, men accounted for 89 percent of motorcycle-related hospital discharges. The bulk of hospitalizations occur on weekend days and during the summer months.
The study also confirms that motorcycles are a risky ride, compared with cars. An earlier study concluded that motorcyclists were 16 times more likely to die and four times more likely to be injured in a traffic crash than passenger car occupants.
"On average, for each day in 2001, there were approximately 25 new lower extremity fractures, 10 new intracranial injuries, and one new spinal cord injury resulting from motorcycle crashes," Coben says.
He notes that motorcycle-related injuries and deaths have "increased substantially" since 1997, a fact he and others attribute to a rollback or weakening of mandatory helmet laws in several states.
By Becky Ham, Science Writer
Health Behavior News Service
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American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Contact the editorial office at 858-457-7292.