Background: On average there are approximately 50 confirmed shark attacks w
orldwide annually. Despite their rarity, such incidents often generate much
public and media attention.
Methods: The injuries of 86 consecutive victims of shark attack were review
ed from 1980 to 1999, Clinical data retrieved from the South African Shark
Attack Files, maintained by the Natal Sharks Board, were retrospectively an
alyzed to determine the nature, treatment, and outcome of injuries.
Results: The majority of victims (n = 68 [81%]) had relatively minor injuri
es that required simple primary suture, Those patients (n = 16 [19%]) with
more extensive limb lacerations longer than 20 cm or with soft-tissue loss
of more than one myofascial compartment were associated with higher morbidi
ty and limb loss. In 8 of the 10 fatalities, death occurred as a result of
exsanguinating hemorrhage from a limb vascular injury.
Conclusion: Victims of shark attack usually sustain only minor injuries. In
more serious cases, particularly if associated with a major vascular injur
y, hemorrhage control and early resuscitation are of utmost importance duri
ng the initial management if these patients are to survive.