Kantonsspital St.Gallen

Crevasse accidents in the Swiss Alps Epidemiology and mortality of 405 victims of crevasse accidents from 2010 to 2020

Eva Klocker, Lorenz Meuli, Simon Rauch, Alexandre Kottmann, Ueli Mosimann, Mathieu Pasquier, Pierre Métrailler, Pascal Doppman, Roland Albrecht & Urs Pietsch


The clinical spectrum of injuries in crevasse accidents can range from benign to life-threatening, even including death. To date, little is known about incidence and causes.

We retrospectively analyzed mountain rescue missions that included crevasse accidents and took place in Switzerland from 2010 to 2020. Demographic and epidemiological data were collected. Injury severity was graded according to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) score. Winter season was defined as December to May, and summer season as June to November.

A total of 321 victims of crevasse falls were included in the study. The median age of victims was 41.2 years (interqauartile range [IQR] 31.3 to 51.6), with 82% (n=260) being male and 59% (n=186) foreigners. The typical altitude range at which rescue missions were performed was between 3000 and 3499m (44% of all cases). The median depth of the fall was 15 meters (IQR 8 to 20) during the winter season compared to 8 meters (IQR 5 to 10) during the summer, p<0.001. Overall mortality was 6.5%. The NACA score was ≥4 for 9.4% (n=30) of the victims. 55% (n=177) had a NACA score of 0 or 1. There was a significant positive correlation between the depth of fall and the injury severity (Pearson`s correlation r=0.35, 95%- confidence interval: 0.18 to 0.51), p<0.001.

More than half of victims fallen into a crevasse are uninjured or sustain mild injury. Life-threathening injuries were found in about 10% of victims and the crevasse fall was fatal in 6.5% of cases. Injury severity positively correlates with the depth of fall, which is higher during winter season.
citation Klocker E, Meuli L, Rauch S, Kottmann A, Mosimann U, Pasquier M, Métrailler P, Doppman P, Albrecht R, Pietsch U. Crevasse accidents in the Swiss Alps Epidemiology and mortality of 405 victims of crevasse accidents from 2010 to 2020. Injury 2021;.
type journal paper/review (English)
date of publishing 12-08-2021
journal title Injury
ISSN electronic 1879-0267
PubMed 34412853
DOI 10.1016/j.injury.2021.08.010