A survey of interhospital transfer of head-injured patients with inadequately treated life-threatening extracranial injuries

Aust N Z J Surg. 1992 Oct;62(10):759-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-2197.1992.tb06913.x.


A 12 month prospective study was undertaken to determine the frequency of untreated life-threatening extracranial injuries in patients transferred to a major trauma centre because of head injury. Of the 43 patients transferred (15 with isolated head injury and 28 with multiple injuries), four (9%) had an untreated life-threatening extracranial injury, which caused death in two. All four patients with untreated extracranial injuries were transferred from hospitals with general surgical staff and facilities. In three of the patients (none with a major head injury), the extracranial injuries were recognized at the referring hospital, but were left untreated in the rush to transfer the patient to a neurosurgical facility. In the fourth patient, who had a severe head injury, recurrent hypotension from a ruptured spleen was mistakenly ascribed to a scalp wound. The series shows that the dangerous practice of hurriedly transferring patients to trauma centres because of actual or perceived head injuries, while leaving major extracranial injuries untreated, continues despite warnings in the literature and the efforts of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons through the Early Management of Severe Trauma programme.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / therapy
  • Critical Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver / injuries
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Trauma / diagnosis
  • Multiple Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Patient Transfer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Queensland / epidemiology
  • Rupture
  • Skull Fractures / diagnosis
  • Splenic Rupture / diagnosis