Background: To determine whether prehospital hypotension predicts the need for an emergent, therapeutic operation in trauma patients who present to the emergency department (ED) with normal systolic blood pressure (SBP).
Methods: An observational, cohort study was conducted at a Level I, urban, county trauma center. Consecutive trauma patients not in cardiopulmonary arrest and transported to the ED by emergency medical services during a one-year period were studied. Data on prehospital and ED vital signs, subsequent hospital course, and surgical procedures were collected. The occurrence of an emergent, therapeutic operation, which was defined based on the types of injuries found or repaired within 6 hours of arrival, was determined from operative and hospital records.
Results: Of the 1,227 total trauma patients, 160 were excluded because of cardiopulmonary arrest or inadequate documentation, leaving 1,067 study patients. Of those, 1,028 were normotensive on arrival to the ED. Seventy-one of the 1,028 patients (7%) were hypotensive in the field; 37% of these patients received an emergent, therapeutic operation and 6% died. Of the 1,028 patients, 957 (93%) were normotensive in the field; 11% of these patients received an emergent, therapeutic operation and 3% died. Thus, in trauma patients who were normotensive on arrival to the ED, the need for an emergent, therapeutic operation was more than three times more likely compared with those who had normal SBP in the field (odds ratio 4.5, 95% confidence interval 2.7-7.6). Mortality was also higher in the prehospital hypotension group (odds ratio 2.3, 95% confidence interval 0.8-6.9).
Conclusion: Prehospital hypotension is a strong predictor of the need for an emergent, therapeutic operation in trauma patients with normal SBP on arrival to the ED.