Objectives: To determine the incidence, aetiology and contributing factors to injuries being missed during the primary and secondary surveys in patients with major trauma managed on a general Adult Intensive Care Unit (AICU).
Methods: The records for patients admitted to the AICU following severe injury (defined as injury severity score (ISS) >16) over a 1-year period were reviewed. Diagnostic imaging performed during the resuscitation was reviewed in cases where missed injuries were discovered.
Results: Forty-five patients with a median injury severity score of 26 were included in the study. Twelve missed injuries were discovered in 10 patients during the intensive care admission; three required an additional surgical procedure. There was no significant difference in Glasgow Coma Score, revised trauma score, ISS or admission systolic blood pressure between patients with missed injuries and those patients where all injures were found at resuscitation (P > 0.05). Three quarters of the undetected injuries were orthopaedic.
Conclusions: Significant injuries can be missed during the primary and secondary surveys in severely injured patients. A tertiary survey should be completed in all trauma patients admitted to an intensive care unit.