Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: South Africa (SA) has one of the highest gun-related mortality rates in the world - 20 people per day. The available data, however, do not reflect the substantial number of patients suffering non-lethal firearm injuries. Gunshot-related injury has been recognised as a highly costly healthcare problem by individual treating centres in SA and other countries; however, no 'national picture' has been examined in detail. OBJECTIVES: To explore the burden of gunshot-related orthopaedic injuries across SA. METHODS: A multicentre research network was established in SA, and 37 orthopaedic units across 9 provinces participated. A prospective, observational cohort study was performed during a 2-week period in 2019. Patients were screened, enrolled and reported by local orthopaedic teams. Patients were included if they had at least one acute gunshot-related orthopaedic fracture referred to the orthopaedic service. Patients were asked additional questions around baseline health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL) and personal circumstances. Follow-up was at 8 weeks after injury. RESULTS: Thirty-seven centres enrolled 135 patients over the 2-week study period. Western Cape Province had the highest number of reported cases (n=52; 39%), followed by Gauteng (n=35; 26%) and KwaZulu-Natal (n=29; 21%). The median age of patients was 30.5 years and the majority were male (89%). Forty-three percent of patients had been either shot or stabbed prior to this injury. Fifty-two percent of all patients required fracture fixation surgery and 11% required wound debridement without fracture fixation. HRQOL data were collected successfully at baseline, but follow-up data were available for <25% of cases. CONCLUSIONS: Gunshot-related orthopaedic injuries represent a significant burden of disease in the SA healthcare environment. This study highlights several areas for further research in the management of the injuries and associated outcomes.

Original publication




Journal article


S afr med j

Publication Date





655 - 660


Adult, Bone and Bones, Debridement, Female, Fracture Fixation, Humans, Male, Prospective Studies, South Africa, Wounds, Gunshot