Background: "Failure to rescue" patients with complications is a factor contributing to high mortality rates after elective surgery. In trauma, where early deaths are the primary contributors to a trauma center's mortality rate, the rescue of patients with complications might not be related to overall trauma center mortality. We assessed the extent to which trauma center mortality was reflected by the center's ability to rescue patients with major complications.
Methods: Data were derived from the National Trauma Databank, and limited to adults with an Injury Severity Score ≥9 and to centers with adequate complication reporting. Regression models were used to produce center-level adjusted rates for mortality and complications. Centers were ranked on their adjusted mortality rate and divided into quintiles.
Results: Of 76,048 patients, 9.6% had a major complication and 7.9% died. The mean complication rate in the quintile of centers with the highest mortality rates was 11.1%, compared with 7.7% in the quintile of centers with the lowest mortality rates (p=0.03). In addition, mortality among patients with complications differed significantly across quintiles. The mean mortality among patients with complications was 20.3% in the quintile of centers with the highest overall mortality rates, compared with 11.1% in the quintile of centers with the lowest overall mortality rates (p<0.001).
Conclusions: Unlike reports from elective surgery, complication rates after severe injury differ across centers and parallel mortality rates. Centers with low overall mortality are more successful at rescuing patients who experience complications. A lower risk of complications and better care of those with complications are both at play in high-performing trauma centers.
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