Objective: To examine the differences between severely injured older patients (aged over 65 years) compared with similarly injured younger adults in terms of incidence, inpatient mortality and factors predicting outcome.
Methods: Data prospectively entered into the Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN) database from our level I trauma unit over a 5-year period were retrospectively examined, with 3172 patients included in the final analysis.
Results: Older patients accounted for 13.8% of those with severe injuries (Injury Severity Score 16 or more) and almost 2% of our trauma admissions overall. High energy injuries were responsible for the majority of these injuries though relatively minor trauma became increasingly important in older patients. Mortality rates in the older patients were more than twice those seen in the adult population (19% in the under 40's to almost 50% in the over 75's). Age, Injury Severity Score and Glasgow Coma Score continued to be predictive of mortality in older patients but other factors relevant in younger adults were not.
Conclusions: Patients in the older group without physiological derangement on admission were still at a relatively high risk of inpatient mortality. This was in contrast to the younger patients, suggesting that it might be more difficult to predict which older patients might benefit from more aggressive monitoring or treatment. Despite increased mortality in older patients, significant survival rates were achieved even in the oldest. Active treatment should not be withdrawn on the basis of age alone.