“Prison bars” by Ken Mayer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

High Burden of Trauma and Avoidable Surgical Deaths in US Prisons

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Tanya L. Zakrison, MHSc MD FRCSC FACS MPH Associate Professor of Surgery University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Dr. Zakrison

Tanya L. Zakrison, MHSc MD FRCSC FACS MPH
Associate Professor of Surgery
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Over 2 million people in the United States are incarcerated, the highest rate in the entire world.  To date no national statistics on surgical outcomes have been reported in this vulnerable patient population.  We examined 301 medical examiner’s reports from prisoner deaths in Miami-Dade County.  Excluding those with confounding medical conditions such as cirrhosis and cancer, we still found that one in five deaths were being attributed to trauma and reversible surgical diseases.   

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: There is an unrecognized burden of surgical disease in the inmate population in this country, and lack of access to both timely surgical evaluation and surgical care is likely resulting in avoidable deaths in prisoner populations. Also very importantly, not all inmate deaths are being captured, thus the situation could be far worse. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: The results are retrospective in a single county and need to be reproduced on a broader scale and in other parts of the country.  We need more robust data collection and reporting mechanisms nationwide to support this endeavor.  We would also think that evaluating outcomes in prisoners who do make it to surgical evaluation and treatment should be investigated to see whether their outcomes are any better or worse than the general population.

No disclosures.


Busko A, Soe-Lin H, Barber C, Rattan R, King R, Zakrison TL. Postmortem Incidence of Acute Surgical- and Trauma-Associated Pathologic Conditons in Prison Inmates in Miami Dade County, Florida. JAMA Surg. Published online September 12, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2018.2443

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Last Updated on September 14, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD