Shark Attack Related Injuries: Epidemiology and Implications for Plastic Surgeons

paperPublished on 11. September 2015

Shark Attack Related Injuries:
Epidemiology and Implications for Plastic Surgeons

Joseph A. Ricci, Christina R. Vargas, Dhruv Singhal, Bernard T. Lee


The increased media attention to shark attacks has led to a heightened fear and public awareness. Although few sharks are considered dangerous, attacks on humans can result in large soft tissue defects necessitating the intervention of reconstructive surgeons. This study aims to evaluate and describe the characteristics of shark related injuries in order to improve treatment.

The Global Shark Accident File, maintained by the Shark Research Institute (Princeton, NJ) is a compilation of all known worldwide shark attacks. Database records since 1900 were reviewed to identify differences between fatal and non-fatal attacks, including: geography, injury pattern, shark species, and victim activity.

Since 1900, there have been 5034 reported shark attacks; 1205 (22.7%) were fatal. While the incidence of attacks per decade has increased, the percentage of fatalities has decreased. Characteristics of fatal attacks included swimming (p = 0.001), boating (p = 0.001), three or more bite sites (p = 0.03), limb loss (p = 0.001) or Tiger shark attack (p = 0.002). Bites to the legs (41.8%) or arms (18.4%) were most common, with limb loss occurring in 7% of attacks. Geographically, the majority of attacks occurred in North America (36.7%), and Australia (26.5%). Florida (49.1%) and California (13.6%) had the most attacks within the USA.

Although rare, shark attacks result in devastating injuries to patients. As these injuries often involve multiple sites and limb loss, this creates a significant challenge for reconstructive surgeons. Proper identification of the characteristics of the attack can aid in providing optimal care for those affected.

Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery,
In Press Accepted Manuscript, DOI 10.1016/j.bjps.2015.08.029



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