Individuals attempting to enter the USA from Mexico at non-authorized points along the border fence often sustain injuries requiring medical intervention. We evaluated characteristics of this patient population and their hospital care to better understand patient treatment needs. Given the high-velocity nature of these injuries, we hypothesized that higher pain scores would be associated with longer lengths of hospital stay.
In this cross-sectional study, we selected records of all patients from 2013 to 2019 who received care by the Orthopaedic Surgery department following an injury sustained at the California-Baja California border. We evaluated demographics, musculoskeletal injuries, procedures, length of hospital stay (LOS), follow-up, and pain scores via retrospective chart review. We used linear regression, adjusting for age and gender, to evaluate associations between pain scores and hospital LOS.
Among all 168 patients, there were 248 total injuries comprised of 46% lower extremity, 15% upper extremity, 17% spine, and 4% pelvic injuries. Average age at injury was 33 ± 10, 74% were male, and 85% identified as Hispanic. Of this patient population, 68% underwent operative interventions, 26% sustained open injuries, and 21% required external fixation for initial injury stabilization. Thirteen percent were seen for follow-up after discharge. Spine (n = 42), pilon (n = 36), and calcaneus fractures (n = 25) were the three most common injury types. Average LOS for all patients was 7.8 ± 8.1 days. Pain scores were not significantly associated with LOS ( p = 0.08). However, for every surgical procedure performed, hospital LOS was increased by 5.16 ± 0.47 days (p < 0.001).
Many injuries incurred by patients crossing the border were severe, requiring multiple surgical interventions and a prolonged LOS. The higher number of procedures was significantly associated with longer LOS in all operatively treated patients. Future studies are needed to determine how we can optimize care for this unique patient population and facilitate post-discharge care.