Identifying trauma patients with benefit from direct transportation to Level-1 trauma centers

Charlie A. Sewalt,  Benjamin Y. Gravesteijn,  Daan Nieboer,  Ewout W. Steyerberg,  Dennis Den Hartog &

David Van Klaveren  BMC Emergency Medicine volume 21, Article number: 93 (2021

Abstract

Background

Prehospital triage protocols typically try to select patients with Injury Severity Score (ISS) above 15 for direct transportation to a Level-1 trauma center. However, ISS does not necessarily discriminate between patients who benefit from immediate care at Level-1 trauma centers. The aim of this study was to assess which patients benefit from direct transportation to Level-1 trauma centers.

Methods

We used the American National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB), a retrospective observational cohort. All adult patients (ISS > 3) between 2015 and 2016 were included. Patients who were self-presenting or had isolated limb injury were excluded. We used logistic regression to assess the association of direct transportation to Level-1 trauma centers with in-hospital mortality adjusted for clinically relevant confounders. We used this model to define benefit as predicted probability of mortality associated with transportation to a non-Level-1 trauma center minus predicted probability associated with transportation to a Level-1 trauma center. We used a threshold of 1% as absolute benefit. Potential interaction terms with transportation to Level-1 trauma centers were included in a penalized logistic regression model to study which patients benefit.

Results

We included 388,845 trauma patients from 232 Level-1 centers and 429 Level-2/3 centers. A small beneficial effect was found for direct transportation to Level-1 trauma centers (adjusted Odds Ratio: 0.96, 95% Confidence Interval: 0.92–0.99) which disappeared when comparing Level-1 and 2 versus Level-3 trauma centers. In the risk approach, predicted benefit ranged between 0 and 1%. When allowing for interactions, 7% of the patients (n = 27,753) had more than 1% absolute benefit from direct transportation to Level-1 trauma centers. These patients had higher AIS Head and Thorax scores, lower GCS and lower SBP. A quarter of the patients with ISS > 15 were predicted to benefit from transportation to Level-1 centers (n = 26,522, 22%).

Conclusions

Benefit of transportation to a Level-1 trauma centers is quite heterogeneous across patients and the difference between Level-1 and Level-2 trauma centers is small. In particular, patients with head injury and signs of shock may benefit from care in a Level-1 trauma center. Future prehospital triage models should incorporate more complete risk profiles.

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