Background: This study tests the relationships between early bedside vital capacity (VC) measurement and morbidity, mortality, and resource consumption in geriatric blunt chest trauma patients with rib fractures.
Methods: This was a retrospective study examining all patients > or = 65 years old with rib fractures who had a VC measured within 48 hours of their emergency department evaluation. Outcome variables included pulmonary complications, death from pulmonary complications, hospital length of stay (LOS), intensive care unit length of stay (ICU LOS), and discharge disposition.
Results: Thirty-eight patients met the study criteria. The mean age was 80.2 (+/-7.4) years, the mean number of rib fractures was 3.6 (+/-1.6), and the mean ISS was 6.9 (+/-4.7). VC and the percentage of the predicted vital capacity (pVC) were both inversely correlated with LOS (p = 0.0076 and p = 0.0172, respectively). Linear regression analysis suggested that patients with a VC < 1.4 L or < 55% of their pVC had a LOS > 3 days. Mean VC was 36% higher in patients who were discharged home versus those discharged to an extended care facility (ECF; p = 0.025). There was a trend toward significance when comparing VC to ICU LOS (p = 0.079), but none in predicting pulmonary complications (p = 0.3299). No correlations between VC and mortality can be drawn given the single death in the cohort.
Conclusions: Bedside VC is a simple measurement which could predict LOS in elderly patients with rib fractures and may identify those patients requiring ECF upon discharge. Further prospective study may highlight the utility of emergency room VC in determining the disposition of these patients.