Urban Trauma Centers: Not Quite Dead Yet

Patton Jr., Joe H.; Woodward, Ann M.
April 2002
American Surgeon;Apr2002, Vol. 68 Issue 4, p318
Academic Journal
With decreasing violent crime and an increase in the use of nonoperative management techniques the viability of urban trauma centers has come into question. In addition the workload and productivity for surgeons at such centers may be threatened. The current study examines the changing characteristics of patients admitted to an urban Level I trauma center over a 5-year period and examines factors that may affect trauma surgeon utilization. We reviewed all trauma registry admissions from January 1995 through December 1999. Data were collected regarding patient demographics, mechanism of injury, diagnostic workup, injury character and severity, operative procedures, intensive care unit (ICU) length of stay (LOS), hospital LOS, and patient disposition. Admissions declined 23 per cent over the 5-year period. Fewer patients were admitted to general practice units whereas more patients required ICU admission. Over the study period both mean patient age and mean Injury Severity Score increased significantly. Gunshot wound admissions declined by 45 per cent, but the percentage of those admitted who required operation rose 17 per cent. Number of operations for trauma performed by general surgeons was unchanged over time. Hospital LOS declined over time, and ICU LOS was unchanged. Although trauma center admissions--particularly those due to violent crime--are on the decline the operative productivity of trauma surgeons has remained unchanged. Patients admitted to the hospital are older and more severely injured; they undeniably require a higher level of care and service coordination. Urban trauma centers remain viable and are in fact more efficient in caring for sicker patients.


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