Objectives: To evaluate the effect of age on intensity of care provided to traumatically brain-injured adults and to determine the influence of intensity of care on mortality at discharge and 12 months postinjury, controlling for injury severity.
Design: Cohort study using the National Study on the Costs and Outcomes of Trauma (NSCOT) database. Risk ratio and Poisson regression analyses were performed using data weighted according to the population of eligible patients.
Setting and patients: A total of 18 level 1 and 51 level 2 non-trauma centers located in 14 states in the United States and 1,776 adults aged 25-84 yrs with a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury.
Measurements: Injury severity was determined by the motor component of the Glasgow Coma Scale score, the Injury Severity Score, pupillary reactivity, and presence of midline shift. Factors evaluated as contributing to intensity of care included: admission to the intensive care unit, mechanical ventilation, placement of an intracranial pressure monitor, placement of a jugular bulb catheter, placement of a pulmonary artery catheter, critical care consultation, the number of specialty care consultations, mannitol use, treatment with barbiturate coma, decompressive craniectomy, number of nonneurosurgical procedures performed, the presence of a do-not-resuscitate order, and withdrawal of therapy.
Main results: Controlling for injury-related factors, sex, and comorbidity, as age increased, the overall likelihood of receiving various interventions decreased. After controlling for injury severity, sex, and comorbidity, factors associated with higher risk of in-hospital death were: being aged 75-84 yrs (relative risk [RR] 1.32, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.13, 1.55), pulmonary artery catheter use (RR 1.56, 95% CI 1.30, 1.86), intubation (RR 4.17, 95% CI 2.28, 7.61), the presence of a do-not-resuscitate order (RR 3.21, 95% CI 2.21, 4.65), and withdrawal of therapy (RR 2.33, 95% CI 1.69, 3.23). In contrast, a higher number of specialty care consultations (surgical consults: RR 0.63, 95% CI 0.54, 0.74; medical consults: RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.79, 0.95; and other consults: RR 0.43, 95% CI 0.26, 0.69) were associated with decreased risk of death. The results were similar for factors associated with death at 12 months, with the exception that the number of medical consultations was not significant, whereas the number of nonneurosurgical procedures performed was associated with lower risk of death (RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.92, 0.99), as was obtaining critical care consultation services (RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.71, 1.0).
Conclusions: There is a lower intensity of care provided to older adults with traumatic brain injury. Although the specific contributions of specialists to patient management are unknown, their consultation was associated with decreased risk of in-hospital death and death within 12 months. It is important that careproviders have an increased awareness of the potential contribution of multidisciplinary clinical decision making to patient outcomes in older traumatically brain-injured patients.