CHICAGO (CBS) — A study of teenage emergency room visits shows gunshots are the leading cause of childhood death and serious injury in the United States.

The research, “Gunshot Injuries in Children Served by Emergency Services,” found gunshot wounds account for only 1 percent of injured children.

However those injuries tend to be more severe, require more major surgery and have higher mortality rates and greater per-patient costs than any other type of childhood injury–particularly among young males.

“In penetrating trauma like a gunshot wound, what happens is there is a projectile that passes through the tissues of your body and as it passes through tissues of your body it can cause injuries to multiple areas,” said James Doherty, director of trauma care at Advocate Christ Medical Center.

He sees the problem coming from young people now willing to resolve conflict through firearms.

Compared with children who had suffered injuries from other causes, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, sports and assaults, children who were shot had the highest proportion of:

  • Serious injuries (23 percent)
  • Major surgery (32 percent)
  • In-hospital deaths (8 percent)
  • Per-patient costs ($28,000 annually).

The study appears in the October issue of “Pediatrics.”

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