TUESDAY, July 24, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Greater availability of neurosurgeons could reduce the number of people who die from brain injuries suffered in traffic crashes, according to a new study.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in the United States among people 34 years old and younger. Traumatic brain injury is the primary cause of death among people injured in car accidents; treatment of brain injuries is generally handled by neurosurgeons.
In this study, Dr. Atman Desai and colleagues from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., examined data from more than 3,100 rural and urban counties across the United States between 2004 and 2006. The average rate of car-crash-related deaths, they found, was 226 per 1 million people.
The largest number of neurosurgeons in a county was 372, the researchers discovered, but most counties had no such doctors.
The researchers calculated that an increase of one neurosurgeon per 1 million people would lead to between one and two fewer deaths from car accidents per 1 million people. This was true whether the county was rural or urban.
To achieve the same reduction in deaths would require an additional 33 primary care doctors or an additional six general surgeons per 1 million people, the researchers said.
The findings indicate that the availability of local neurosurgeons may improve a person's chances of surviving a car crash, and suggest the need to encourage medical students to choose neurosurgery as a career, the researchers concluded.
The study was published online July 24 in the Journal of Neurosurgery.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about traumatic brain injury.