Normal presenting vital signs are unreliable in geriatric blunt trauma victims

J Trauma. 2010 Oct;69(4):813-20. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3181f41af8.


Background: Normal vital signs are typically associated with improved outcomes in trauma patients. Whether this association is true for geriatric patients is unclear.

Methods: A Level 1 trauma center retrospective chart review of vital signs on presentation (heart rate [HR] and blood pressure) in young (aged 17-35 years) and geriatric (aged 65 years or older) blunt trauma victims from September 2003 to September 2008 was preformed. Generalized nonlinear using piecewise regression for the linear portion of standard logistic models was used to model risk of mortality as a function of HR and blood pressure. Independent models were selected for elderly and young trauma patients based on blood pressure and HR. Models of the same complexity were then fit within each gender and age.

Results: There were 2,194 geriatric and 2,081 young patients. Two hundred fifty-one (11.4%) geriatric and 49 (2.4%) young patients died. At all points of "normality," the mortality of the geriatric patients was higher than the young group. Mortality increases considerably in the elderly patients for HRs >90 beats per minute (bpm), an association not seen until HR of 130 bpm in the young group. Mortality significantly increases with systolic blood pressure (SBP) <110 mm Hg in the geriatric patients but not until a SBP of 95 mm Hg in the young patients. HR and mortality association was most variable in the male geriatric patients.

Conclusions: Vital signs on presentation are less predictive of mortality in geriatric blunt trauma victims. Geriatric blunt trauma patients warrant increased vigilance despite normal vital signs on presentation. New trauma triage set points of HR >90 or SBP <110 mm Hg should be considered in the geriatric blunt trauma patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • Trauma Centers
  • Vital Signs*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / diagnosis*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / mortality
  • Young Adult