Whenever an incident has caused someone to become hospitalized, news reports on the incidents are always quite vague about the injuries. I understand how these injuries relate to each other, but not what they entail. What is the difference between the categories below? Is there a generally accepted guideline on what injuries fall under what category?

  • lightly injured;
  • mild injuries;
  • injured;
  • heavily injured;
  • critically injured;
  • life threatening injuries;
  • shock;

1 Answer 1


Shock is a specific condition with a number of different causes. However the rest, when used in the general parlance are subjective descriptions of the severity of a person's condition, and they generally don't have a specific definition. For some, it describes the severity of the diagnosis (eg how bad the injuries are or how far along a disease has progressed), for others, it may mean prognosis (how likely a person is to recover). This information is for the press, and can vary. The American Hospital Association has some guidelines, but they are very general. Most hospitals will also have some internal documentation on what to tell the press and what it means.

Some of the terms you list can also be used in in-house (that is, within a hospital) assessments, or part of a formal assessment system. For instance, the Injury Severity Score uses these terms as an assessment tool. Some hospitals may also use labels like this among the staff to determine resource allocation to nursing floors. Those vary from place to place.

  • So it depends? Damn, I thought it was something like Light injuries are just skin damage, normal injuries are broken bones, heavy injuries are internal damage and lost limbs, critical injuries are multiple lost limbs or other lasting damage.
    – Nzall
    Jul 19, 2016 at 7:43
  • It definitely depends. Remember they are not just describing physical trauma, but strokes, heart attacks, or a whole bunch of other possible acute conditions. The guidelines I linked are probably the closest you'll find to a description of the meaning of those terms, but a specific hospital may have their own descriptions.
    – Hans
    Jul 19, 2016 at 7:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.