Doctor spells out real time cost of violence

 Dr. Zafar Khan and Dr. Ben Croton in the plaster room of the emergency department.
Dr. Zafar Khan and Dr. Ben Croton in the plaster room of the emergency department. Alistair Brightman

CUTS, bruises, broken jaws and fractured eye sockets; these are just some of the injuries emergency doctors see that stem from violence.

Emergency department doctor Ben Croton said he saw a pattern of violence-related injuries through the hospital, which was most common at weekends.

He said injuries varied from one extreme to another - from potentially fatal brain injuries to facial cuts that could take two or three weeks to heal.

He said fractures were a common injury, which took about three to six weeks to heal.

"One of the most common injuries is the boxer's fracture, which is a fracture of the bone where your little finger joins the palm of your hand," Dr Croton said.

He said this was the weakest part of the hand and people often broke it when punching someone at a weird angle.

It might be a small bone, but to fix it requires the whole hand to be plastered, which forces a lot of people to take leave from work.

Dr David Rosengren, who works in an emergency department in Brisbane, said one violent act could have a lasting effect on people's lives.

"A lot of trauma is fixable but it takes some significant time," he said.

"The costs associated with drug and alcohol violence are exceptionally larger than what you think.

"The costs to the health system, the costs to individual people and families to take time off work... lots of people lose jobs because they can't work."

Recovery times vary for different injuries, Dr Rosengren said.

Soft tissue injuries, which were also common from violent attacks, took about a week to heal.

Cuts requiring stitches took about two to three weeks to properly heal.

"If you break a bone, we see a lot of broken hands as a result of punching, it is six weeks typically in plaster.

"For a lower limb, that is surgery and/or plaster, and is usually about 12 weeks before people are up and mobile."

He said hospitals often prepared for an influx of patients at weekends and when festivals were being held.



Broken jaw

Broken hand



Fractured eye socket

Topics:  handsoff health medical violence

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