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The rising burden of penetrating knife injuries


Introduction Knife crime remains an area of public health concern. In order to tackle this problem and reduce its burden, the epidemiology of penetrating knife injuries needs to be understood. The aim of this study is to analyse the pattern of knife injuries at a major trauma centre (MTC) in London.

Methods An analysis of cases from the prospectively collected Trauma Audit and Research Network database of patients attending the emergency department with violent intentional knife injuries from January 2014 to December 2018 was performed. Registry data were analysed for mechanism of injury, number of stabbings, month/date/time of admission, patient demographics, anatomical pattern of injury, hospital length of stay, intervention, ethnicity, repeat victims and fatality.

Results 1373 penetrating knife injuries activated the major trauma call representing 11.7% of all major trauma alerts. 44% occurred in the 16–25 years age group and 85.6% were male. 67.2% required hospital admission. 14.1% required surgery. 50.3% required intervention from multiple specialities. 39.4% had thoracic injuries and 25.8% abdominal injuries. Fatality rate was 0.9% (n=12). 3.6% were repeat victims. 26.8% were multiple stabbings. 5.2% were deliberate self-harm. 23.2% were of white ethnic background. Injury incidence peaked on a Saturday. A significant peak in injuries occurred between 22:00 and 00:00.

Conclusion This study shows an increase in the incidence of knife crime per year. These cases contribute approximately 12% of major trauma calls. Female assaults increased from 8.4% to 14.3%. Approximately 2/3 injuries occur in the thorax and abdomen with high frequencies at weekends and evenings. These facts can help allocate resources more efficiently.

  • violence
  • epidemiology
  • penetrating injury
  • public health
  • trauma systems

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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