Background: Systolic blood pressure is used extensively to triage trauma patients as stable or unstable, contrary to Advanced Trauma Life Support recommendations. We hypothesized that systemic hypotension is a late marker of shock.
Methods: The National Trauma Data Bank was queried (n = 115,830). Base deficit was used as a measure of circulatory shock. Systolic blood pressure was correlated with the presence and the severity of base-deficit derangement.
Results: Systolic blood pressure correlated poorly with base deficit (r = .28). There was wide variation in systolic blood pressure within each base-deficit group. The mean and median systolic blood pressure did not decrease to less than 90 mm Hg until the base deficit was worse than -20, with mortality reaching 65%.
Conclusions: We validated the Advanced Trauma Life Support principle that systemic hypotension is a late marker of shock. A normal blood pressure should not deter aggressive evaluation and resuscitation of trauma patients.