Compliance to advanced trauma life support protocols in adult trauma patients in the acute setting

World J Emerg Surg. 2013 Oct 2;8(1):39. doi: 10.1186/1749-7922-8-39.


Introduction: Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) protocols provide a common approach for trauma resuscitations. This was a quality review assessing compliance with ATLS protocols at a Level I trauma center; specifically whether the presence or absence of a trauma team leader (TTL) influenced adherence.

Methods: This retrospective study was conducted on adult major trauma patients with acute injuries over a one-year period in a Level I Canadian trauma center. Data were collected from the Alberta Trauma Registry, and adherence to ATLS protocols was determined by chart review.

Results: The study identified 508 patients with a mean Injury Severity Score of 24.5 (SD 10.7), mean age 39.7 (SD 17.6), 73.8% were male and 91.9% were involved in blunt trauma. The overall compliance rate was 81.8% for primary survey and 75% for secondary survey. The TTL group compared to non-TTL group was more likely to complete the primary survey (90.9% vs. 81.8%, p = 0.003), and the secondary survey (100% vs. 75%, p = 0.004). The TTL group was more likely than the non-TTL group to complete the following tasks: insertion of two large bore IVs (68.2% vs. 57.7%, p = 0.014), digital rectal exam (64.6% vs. 54.7%, p = 0.023), and head to toe exam (77% vs. 67.1%, p = 0.013). Mean times from emergency department arrival to diagnostic imaging were also significantly shorter in the TTL group compared to the non-TTL group, including times to pelvis xray (mean 68min vs. 107min, p = 0.007), CT chest (mean 133min vs. 172min, p = 0.005), and CT abdomen and pelvis (mean 136min vs. 173min, p = 0.013). Readmission rates were not significantly different between the TTL and non-TTL groups (3.5% vs. 4.5%, p = 0.642).

Conclusions: While many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of trauma systems on outcomes, few have explored the direct influence of the TTL on ATLS compliance. This study demonstrated that TTL involvement during resuscitations was associated with improved adherence to ATLS protocols, and increased efficiency (compared to non TTL involvement) to diagnostic imaging. Findings from this study will guide future quality improvement and education for early trauma management.