The Association of Trauma Center Transport and Long-term Functional Outcomes in Head-injured Older Adults Transported by Emergency Medical Services

for the Sacramento County Prehospital Research Consortium

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Objective: It is unclear whether trauma center care is associated with improved outcomes in older adults with traumatic brain injury (TBI) compared to management at nontrauma centers. Our primary objectives were to describe the long-term outcomes of older adults with TBI and to evaluate the association of trauma center transport with long-term functional outcome. Methods: This was a prospective, observational study at five emergency medical services (EMS) agencies and 11 hospitals representing all 9-1-1 transfers within a county. Older adults (≥55 years) with TBI (defined as closed head injury associated with loss of consciousness and/or amnesia, abnormal Glasgow Coma Scale [GCS] score, or traumatic intracranial hemorrhage) and transported by EMS from August 2015 to September 2016 were eligible. EMS providers completed standardized data forms and emergency department (ED) and hospital data were abstracted. Functional outcomes were measured using the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS-E) at 3- and 6-month intervals by telephone follow-up. Reasons for disabilities were coded as due to head injury, due to illness or injury to other part of body, or due to a mixture of both. To evaluate the association of trauma center transport and functional outcomes, we conducted multivariate ordinal logistic regression analyses on multiple imputed data for 1) all patients with TBI and 2) patients with traumatic intracranial hemorrhage. Results: We enrolled 350 patients with TBI; the median (Q1, Q3) age was 70 (61, 84) years, 187 (53%) were male, and 91 patients (26%) had traumatic intracranial hemorrhage on initial ED cranial computed tomography (CT) imaging. A total of 257 patients (73%) were transported by EMS to a Level I or II trauma center. Sixty-nine patients (20%) did not complete follow-up at 3 or 6 months. Of the patients with follow-up, 119 of 260 patients (46%) had moderate disability or worse at 6 months, including 55 of 260 patients (21%) who were dead at 6-month follow-up. Death or severe disabilities were more commonly attributed to non-TBI causes while moderate disabilities or better were more commonly due to TBI. On adjusted analysis, an abnormal GCS score, higher Charlson Comorbidity Index scores, and the presence of traumatic intracranial hemorrhage on initial ED cranial imaging were associated with worse GOS-E scores at 6 months. Trauma center transport was not associated with GOS-E scores at 6 months for TBI patients and in patients with traumatic intracranial hemorrhage on initial ED CT imaging. Conclusions: In older adults with TBI, moderate disability or worse is common 6 months after injury. Over one in five of older adults with TBI died by 6 months, usually due to nonhead causes. Patients with TBI or traumatic intracranial hemorrhage did not have improved functional outcomes with initial triage to a trauma center.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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