Objectives: We explored whether there are diagnostically useful temporal trends in prehospital vital signs of trauma patients.
Methods: Vital signs were monitored during transport to a level I trauma center and electronically archived. Retrospectively, we identified reliable vital signs recorded from the 0- to 7-minute interval and from the 14- to 21-minute interval during transport, and, for each subject, we computed the temporal differences between the two intervals' vital signs, the intrasubject 95% data ranges, the values during the initial 2 minutes, and the 21-minute overall means. We tested for differences between subjects with major hemorrhage versus control subjects, and computed receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curves. We conducted sensitivity analyses, exploring alternative clinical outcomes, temporal windows, and methods of identifying reliable data.
Results: Comparing major hemorrhage cases versus controls, there were no discriminatory differences in temporal vital sign trends. Hemorrhage cases had significantly wider intrasubject data ranges for systolic blood pressure (SBP), respiratory rate (RR), and shock index (SI) versus controls. All results were consistent in several sensitivity analyses.
Conclusions: Our findings add to a growing body of evidence that prehospital vital sign trends over 21 minutes or less are unlikely to be diagnostically useful because of substantial nondirectional fluctuations in vital signs that would obscure any subtle, progressive temporal trends. SBP, RR, and SI values were significantly different for high-acuity patients, and had more variability. Taken together, these findings suggest that higher-acuity patients experience episodes of instability rather than gradual, steady decline. Measures that account for data variability, such as taking the average of multiple measurements, may improve the diagnostic utility of prehospital vital signs.