Lawnmower injuries are serious and costly

Lawnmower injuries send thousands of Americans to the ER each year—at an average cost of nearly $37,000 a patient.

There are almost 6,400 lawnmower injuries a year in the United States, most requiring surgery and hospitalization that cost an average of nearly $37,000 a patient, according to a new study.

“Despite consumer education programs and warning labels, lawnmower injuries in the United States remain a serious public health concern,” says Deborah Schwengel, assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and senior author of the paper, which appears in Public Health Reports.

Hands and toes

The analysis shows that the most frequent injuries were to men (85.2 percent), and that children up to age 4 were six times more likely to have a foot, toe, or lower extremity injury and 1.7 times more likely to have an amputation than those 15 and older.

Adults and teens 15 and older were 8.3 times more likely to have an injury to the hand or upper extremity. This suggests that young children are more likely to get injured by running into the yard while a family member operates the lawnmower or by getting a foot trapped in the machine while sitting in the operator’s lap, researchers say. It also suggests that the majority of teens and adults sustain injuries from sticking their hands into a mower to clear debris.

The data does not show the type of mower that caused an individual injury, so doesn’t say what mower designs are most associated with injuries or whether the injured were more likely to be bystanders or doing the mowing.

The researchers drew on the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample—the largest emergency department database in the United States—and focused on medical records on lawnmower-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations from Jan. 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2013. Each year, NEDS captures 25 million to 30 million emergency department visits, or about 20 percent of emergency department visits in the United States.

The research team identified 14,878 lawnmower injuries over the eight-year period, which, when adapted to reflect national ER visit data, represented an estimated 51,151 injuries, about 6,394 cases a year on average.

Smarter mowers

Most of the injuries were lacerations (46.7 percent), fractures (22.4 percent), and amputations (21.5 percent). The most common injury locations were wrist or hand (65.4 percent) and foot or toe (19.8 percent).

Of the 51,151 cases, 85.2 percent were in men, 37.5 percent happened in the South, 66.3 percent occurred on a weekday, and 81.7 percent occurred between April and September.

By looking at standardized injury codes, or E-codes, researchers were able to look at national averages of treatment costs for the codes and determine that emergency room charges totaled an average of $2,482 per patient. Average inpatient charges totaled $36,987 per patient.

“Understanding what types of injuries occur in certain groups should help engineers design safer lawnmowers and policymakers create more appropriate prevention policies,” Schwengel says.

One example of a better lawnmower design, the researchers say, would be one with stopping features that automatically activate when human flesh is detected near blades.

Additional coauthors are from Johns Hopkins and McMaster Children’s Hospital in Canada.

Source: Johns Hopkins University

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