Language Barrier Leads to the Unnecessary Intubation of Trauma Patients

September 2004
American Surgeon;Sep2004, Vol. 70 Issue 9, p783
Academic Journal
Airway evaluation in trauma patients is performed immediately upon patient contact, with communication being a vital component to this exam. Language and communication barriers may lead to the unnecessary placement of an artificial airway with resultant patient risk and elevation of health care costs. The objective of our study was to evaluate potentially preventable intubations in Spanishespeaking patients. A 9-year retrospective review was performed using the National Trauma Registry for The American College of Surgeons (NTRACS) database. We evaluated patients intubated on arrival to the trauma center and remaining intubated for less than 48 hours. Deaths were excluded. Patients who typically speak English were compared with patients who typically speak Spanish. Mechanism of injury (MOI), hypotension during resuscitation (HDR), illicit substance use, alcohol use, mean Glasgow Coma Score (GCS), mean injury Severity Score (155), payer source, and hospital cost were compared. Forty-nine per cent and 38 per cent of Spanish and English speaking individuals, respectively, were intubated for less than 48 hours (P = 0.072). MOI, HDR, ISS, illicit substance use, alcohol use, and payer source were similar. GCS was statistically higher in the Spanishespeaking group (14 vs 12; P = 0.004). Language and communication barriers lead to potentially preventable intubations in trauma patients.


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