Background: The decade-long Syrian armed conflict killed or injured more than 11% of the Syrian population. Head and neck injuries are the most frequent cause of war-related trauma, about half of which are brain injuries. Reports about Syrian brain trauma victims were published from neighboring countries; However, none are available from Syrian hospitals. This study aims to report war-related traumatic brain injuries from the Syrian capital.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study between 2014 and 2017 at Damascus Hospital, the largest public hospital in Damascus, Syria. Target patients were the victims of combat-related traumatic brain injuries who arrived alive and were admitted to the neurosurgery department or to another department but followed by the neurosurgery team. The collected data included the mechanism, type, and site of injury based on imaging findings; types of invasive interventions; intensive-care unit (ICU) admissions; as well as neurological status at admission and discharge including several severity scales.
Results: Our sample consisted of 195 patients; Ninety-six of them were male young adults, in addition to 40 females and 61 children. Injuries were caused by shrapnel in 127 (65%) cases, and by gunshots in the rest, and most of them (91%) were penetrating. Sixty-eight patients (35%) were admitted to the ICU, and 56 (29%) underwent surgery. Neurological impairment was reported in 49 patients (25%) at discharge, and the mortality rate during hospitalization was 33%. Mortality and neurological impairment associated significantly with higher values on clinical and imaging severity scores.
Conclusions: This study captured the full spectrum of war-related brain injuries of civilians and armed personnel in Syria without the delay required to transport patients to neighboring countries. Although the clinical presentation of injuries at admission was not as severe as that in previous reports, the inadequate resources (i.e., ventilators and operation rooms) and the lack of previous experience with similar injuries might have resulted in the higher mortality rate. Clinical and imaging severity scales can provide a handy tool in identifying cases with low probability of survival especially with the shortage of personal and physical resources.