Management of severe trauma in intensive care units and surgical wards

Med J Aust. 1999 May 3;170(9):416-9. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.1999.tb127815.x.


Objective: To evaluate the management of severe trauma in intensive care, high dependency and general surgical wards of Victorian hospitals.

Design: Retrospective case review by multidisciplinary committees.

Subjects: The first 256 people who died from road traffic accidents who were alive on the arrival of emergency services between 1 July 1992 and 30 June 1994.

Main outcome measures: (1) Severity of injury according to clinical diagnosis, autopsy findings and recognised trauma-scoring methods; (2) errors in management, identified as contributing or not contributing to the cause of death, and categorised as "management", "system", "diagnostic" or "technique" errors.

Results: Most patients (61%) were admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU), and 19.5% were admitted to high dependency or general surgical wards. Of 2187 errors of care identified, 11.8% occurred in ICU and 6.7% in wards, with the remainder occurring during the earlier phases of care. Most errors were classified as management errors (82% of ICU errors and 88% of ward errors). Fifty-two per cent of ICU errors and 71% of ward errors were judged to contribute to the patient's death.

Conclusions: A significant number of errors of trauma management occur in the intensive care and general surgical ward. Improvement in late trauma care may reduce the number of preventable trauma deaths.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Intensive Care Units / standards*
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Medical Audit
  • Medical Errors*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / standards*
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Victoria
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy*