Objective: Identification of injuries of a traumatized patient is a mandate for the emergency department (ED) and the trauma team. Delayed diagnosis of injury in trauma patients leads to increased morbidity, mortality, dissatisfaction, and risk of litigation. Comparing children admitted for blunt trauma, with and without delay, this study examines risk factors for delayed diagnosis.
Methods: Delays in diagnosis from 1991 to 1996 were identified during prospective collection of trauma registry data. Controls were randomly selected from the trauma registry. Charts from both groups were retrospectively reviewed.
Results: Fifty-eight patients had 65 delays in diagnosis. Significant independent delay variables included: female, motor vehicle crash (MVC)-related mechanism, altered consciousness, higher injury severity score, and multiple injuries (P < 0.05). Trauma team activation, documentation of tertiary survey, and length of hospitalization were greater in patients with delay injuries (P < 0.05). Logistic regression identified MVC-related mechanism, female, facial, and extremity injuries as a combination of predictors.
Conclusions: Delays occurred in 1% of patients. Trauma team care itself did not protect all patients from delay. Injury severity at presentation alone is not an adequate predictor of delayed diagnosis in the pediatric patient. A combination of variables was identified as negative predictors of delay. Further study is needed to validate these criteria, and determine if earlier diagnosis would effect quality.