Background: Victoria recently established a new trauma care system following the Consultative Committee's findings on frequent preventable deaths after road crash injury. This study investigates the contribution to neurologic disability of preventable deficiencies in health care in survivors of road crashes occurring from 1998 to 1999.
Methods: The emergency and clinical management of 60 road crash survivors with head Abbreviated Injury Scale score > or = 3 and residual neurologic disability were evaluated by analysis and multidisciplinary discussion of their complete prehospital, hospital, and rehabilitation records.
Results: The mean number of potentially preventable errors or inadequacies per patient was 19.2 +/- 7.5, with 10.5 +/- 7.2 contributing to neurologic disability. The mean number contributing to neurologic disability was greatest in the emergency room (3.5 +/- 3.2), followed by the intensive care unit (2.2 +/- 2.7) and the prehospital setting (1.8 +/- 2.0). Eighty-four percent of the deficiencies were management errors/inadequacies and 7% were system inadequacies. Fifty-five percent of deficiencies contributed to neurologic disability. In patients with a systolic blood pressure less than 90 mm Hg with hypovolemia consequent to inadequate resuscitation, the frequency of severe neurologic disability was increased almost twofold (p < 0.05). Deficiencies contributing to neurologic disability were significantly less frequent in university teaching hospitals with neurosurgical units.
Conclusion: Improvement in neurologic outcomes can be achieved through appropriate triage and increased attention to basic principles of trauma and head injury care.