Study objective: Trauma systems improve the care of trauma patients; however, it is possible that prioritizing the emergency care of trauma patients might adversely affect other potentially ill patients requiring the same resources. We seek to determine whether the presence of a concurrent trauma activation negatively affects processes of care and outcomes for patients with potential acute coronary syndromes.
Methods: Patients who presented to the emergency department (ED) with a potential acute coronary syndrome from July 2003 to June 2004 were stratified according to whether they presented concurrently with a trauma activation. Structured data collection included demographics, medical history, and daily tracking of inhospital course. Thirty-day follow-up was performed. The main outcome was a composite of inhospital cardiovascular complications and 30-day death and myocardial infarction. Secondary outcomes were time from triage to ECG acquisition, transfer to an evaluation room, return of laboratory results, disposition decision, and actual disposition.
Results: Patients who presented concurrently with (n=357) or not concurrently with (n=1,235) a trauma activation were similar with respect to demographic characteristics, cardiac risk factors, and TIMI risk score. The unadjusted incidence of 30-day adverse cardiovascular events between potential acute coronary syndrome patients who presented with and without a concurrent trauma activation was 6.2% versus 3.6% (unadjusted odds ratio 1.74 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03 to 2.93]). After adjustment for measures of patient acuity (triage classification, TIMI risk score) and ED volume (total patient care hours and ED activity), concurrent trauma activation was independently associated with increased rate of 30-day cardiovascular complications (odds ratio 1.72; 95% CI 1.01 to 2.92).
Conclusion: The presence of a concurrent trauma activation at the time of presentation of a patient with potential acute coronary syndrome was associated with an increased incidence of 30-day adverse cardiovascular events. Although trauma activations improve the care of trauma patients, they may be associated with a negative impact on the care of other patients requiring contemporaneous resources.