May 24, 2013

Preventable injuries filled Vanderbilt University Hospital last Memorial Day; Doctors urge safety on upcoming holiday

Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center urge safety with upcoming Memorial Day celebrations after a record-breaking number of trauma patients filled Vanderbilt University Hospital on this same weekend last year.

In 2012 Vanderbilt’s Trauma Unit saw more than triple the volume of patients than are treated during a typical weekend, and LifeFlight, Vanderbilt’s air ambulance, responded to more than 70 of the area’s most critical patients, logging the busiest weekend in its 28-year history.

Victims of automobile, boating, motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle accidents flooded Vanderbilt, and many of these accidents could have been prevented or significantly reduced in severity with proper safety precautions, said Rick Miller, M.D., chief of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care at Vanderbilt.

“We saw multiple car wrecks where victims were not wearing their seat belts, and several motorcycle and ATV accident victims were not wearing helmets and were driving too fast,” Miller said of the more than 60 admissions in the Trauma Unit alone last Memorial Day weekend.

Alcohol is also a big contributor to accidents and injuries, says Corey Slovis, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

“People who mix too much alcohol with activities that require concentration, like operating any type of vehicle, risk killing themselves and others,” Slovis said. “Alcohol impairs your judgment, which is often accompanied by the lack of recognition that one’s judgment is no longer very reliable.”

Vanderbilt sees more than 60,000 patients in the Adult Emergency Department each year and has the only level 1 trauma center in a 150-mile radius. Vanderbilt LifeFlight is a not-for-profit critical care air ambulance that operates five helicopters and is the only service in Middle Tennessee that carries lifesaving blood.