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Esposito TJ, Crandall M, Reed RL, Gamelli RL, Luchette FA. J. Trauma 2006; 61(6): 1380-6; discussion 1386-8.


Division of Trauma Critical Care and Burns, Department of Surgery, Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Burn & Shock Trauma Institute, Maywood, Illinois, USA.


(Copyright © 2006, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins)






BACKGROUND: A number of forces have come together to effect a perceived change in the volume and nature of transfers to Level I trauma centers recently. These may have little to do with the actual clinical need. This study seeks to verify whether a change in the profile of trauma transfers has occurred and to characterize the nature of any changes. METHODS: Retrospective review of state trauma registry data from 1999 through 2003 including day and time of transfer, Injury Severity Score (ISS), primary ICD-9, payor status, and mortality. The transfer group (TTP) was compared with the general population of trauma patients (ATP) and variables trended. Analysis employed descriptive statistics and logistic regression. Average malpractice insurance premium charges and measures of subspecialty surgeon participation in trauma care were also trended. RESULTS: During the study period ATP increased by 6% and TTP by 34%. The majority of transfers were from Level II to Level I trauma centers. Mean ISS increased from 9.1 to 10.0 (1.2%) in ATP and from 11.3 to 12.8 (2%) in TTP. The mortality rate over time was essentially unchanged for both groups; 4% ATP versus 5% TTP. Proportion of self-pay patients in each group remained relatively static between 20% to 25%. The number of patients with head injury (HI) increased by 14%, their transfer rate increased by 44%. Orthopedic injury (OI) prevalence increased 25% whereas transfers increased by 48%. Mean ISS increased from 13.7 to 14.8 and 11.1 to 12.9, respectively. The variables most significant for predicting transfer were arrival at initial emergency department between 3:00 pm and 7:00 am and OI or HI. Concomitantly, the mean malpractice insurance premium paid by general, orthopedic, and neurosurgeons each rose by approximately 90% during the study period. Waivers of regulatory compliance were requested by 28% of trauma centers (72% Level II) with 39% of requests related to lack of neurosurgery services. CONCLUSION: During the study period, a disproportionate increase in TTP occurred in comparison to ATP. This finding is more pronounced in patients with HI and OI. Findings do not appear attributable to changes in severity or proportion of self payors. The ISS of TTP is below 16. Concomitantly, there was a precipitous rise in malpractice premiums and a functional decrease in neurosurgeons. This suggests a multifactorial reluctance or inability of initial hospitals to care for patients they are theoretically capable of treating, placing undo burden on Level I centers.

Language: en


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