Emergency department management of severely injured children in New South Wales

Abstract

Objective

Presentations to EDs for major paediatric injury are considerably lower than for adults. International studies report lower levels of critical intervention, including intubation, required in injured children. A New South Wales study demonstrated an adverse event rate of 7.6% in children with major injury. Little is known about the care and interventions received by children presenting to Australian EDs with major injury.

Methods

The ED care of injured children <16 years who ultimately received definitive care at a New South Wales Paediatric Trauma Centre between July 2015 and September 2016, and had an Injury Severity Score ≥9, required intensive care admission or died were included.

Results

There were 491 injured children who received treatment at 64 EDs, half (49.4%, n = 243) were treated initially in a Paediatric Trauma Centre. One third (32.8%) sustained an Injury Severity Score >12, more than half (n = 251, 51.1%) of children were classified as a triage category 1 or 2, and 38.3% received trauma team activation. Critical intervention was infrequent. Intubation was documented in 9.2% (n = 45), needle thoracostomy and activation of massive transfusion protocol in two (0.4%) and eight (1.6%) had intraosseous access established. Only a small proportion (14.7%, n = 63) had two or more observations outside the normal range.

Conclusion

A small proportion of children arriving in the ED post-major trauma have deranged clinical observations and receive critical interventions. The limited exposure in the management of trauma in paediatric patients requires measures to ensure clinicians have adequate training, skills and confidence to manage these clinical presentations in all EDs.

Key findings

Critical interventions are infrequently performed in the delivery of emergency care to critically injured children.

Trauma team activation occured in less than half of children presenting following injury.

Observations at intial assessment post triage were poorly documented.

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