Accident study leads to changes in treatment

SINCE March, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) has changed the way it treats motorcycle accident victims after a study revealed that both biker and pillion rider sustain similar injuries.

The trauma team at its Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department now treats the two casualties together, rather than separately.

“If the rider has injuries to the head and chest, we find that the pillion rider will also have the same,” said Dr Teo Li Tserng, a consultant trauma surgeon involved in the study. 

“Now, if we see an injury on the rider, we will check for something similar in the pillion rider. The two teams will communicate all these to one another,”
he said. 

“This way, we are less likely to miss out on any injuries.”

The study examined 31 rider-pillion pairs treated at TTSH from last August to March this year. They were about 35 years old on average hospitalised for about five days.

The findings were presented at a regional conference in April and won a prize for best research project. They have been submitted for publication in a scientific journal. 

The hospital has been seeing more motorcycle accident casualties at its A&E Department. In the past five years, there was a 3 to 6 per cent increase each
year in victims with moderate to severe injuries.

On average, the hospital gets about six cases a week.

Last year, the Singapore Civil Defence Force sent 4,095 motorcycle accident victims to hospitals.

The accidents they were in made up a third of all road accidents.

Dr. Teo said the study’s findings differ from previous studies that claimed that either the biker or the person riding pillion tended to be worse off in an accident.

Most studies examined motorcyclists and pillion riders separately, which might have led to differing conclusions.

In this study, bikers and those riding pillion – from the same accident and on the same bike – were examined together.

“There are a lot of confounding factors – every accident involves different speeds, different mechanisms,” Dr Teo said. “We saw this limitation in those studies.”

Findings showed that both people on the bike had the same number of body areas injured. Most common are limb fractures and chest injuries such as broken ribs. Some also suffered head injuries like bleeding in the brain and concussion. The severity of the injuries was also similar, going by a scoring system that examines the three most severely hit areas of the body.

The average of 15 points puts the victims in the category of moderate injury. Some 45 per cent of those injured were involved in a collision with a car, while 29 per cent were hurt when their bikes skidded on the road.

Most of the bikers had an average of 15 years of riding experience. Only four were carrying provisional licences. Said Dr Teo: “This throws out the belief that only young riders get into accidents. Your age or experience in riding does not prevent
you from injuring yourself.”

He advised motorcyclists – and also pillion riders – to wear proper gear, such as a protective jacket and covered shoes.

“A lot of riders like to wear flip-flops or sandals but these can get caught when stepping on the gears, causing the person to lose his balance,” he said.