A review of the epidemiology and treatment of orthopaedic injuries after earthquakes in developing countries

James S. MacKenzie, Bibek Banskota, Norachart Sirisreetreerux, Babar Shafiq, Erik A. Hasenboehler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Earthquakes in developing countries are devastating events. Orthopaedic surgeons play a key role in treating earthquake-related injuries to the extremities. We describe orthopaedic injury epidemiology to help guide response planning for earthquake-related disasters. Methods: Several databases were searched for articles reporting primary injury after major earthquakes from 1970 to June 2016. We used the following key words: "earthquake" AND "fracture" AND "injury" AND "orthopedic" AND "treatment" AND "epidemiology." The initial search returned 528 articles with 253 excluded duplicates. The remaining 275 articles were screened using inclusion criteria, of which the main one was the description of precise anatomic location of fracture. This yielded 17 articles from which we analyzed the ratio of orthopaedic to nonorthopaedic injuries; orthopaedic injury location, type, and frequency; fracture injury characteristics (open vs. closed, single vs. multiple, and simple vs. comminuted); and first-line treatments. Results: Most injuries requiring treatment after earthquakes (87%) were orthopaedic in nature. Nearly two-thirds of these injuries (65%) were fractures. The most common fracture locations were the tibia/fibula (27%), femur (17%), and foot/ankle (16%). Forty-two percent were multiple fractures, 22% were open, and 16% were comminuted. The most common treatment for orthopaedic injuries in the setting of earthquakes was debridement (33%). Conclusions: Orthopaedic surgeons play a critical role after earthquake disasters in the developing world. A strong understanding of orthopaedic injury epidemiology and treatment is critical to providing effective preparation and assistance in future earthquake disasters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9
JournalWorld Journal of Emergency Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 10 2017


  • Developing countries
  • Earthquake
  • Epidemiology
  • Orthopaedic injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Emergency Medicine

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'A review of the epidemiology and treatment of orthopaedic injuries after earthquakes in developing countries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this