The epidemiology of do-not-resuscitate orders in patients with trauma: a community level one trauma center observational experience

Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med. 2015 Feb 3:23:9. doi: 10.1186/s13049-015-0094-2.


Background: Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders in patients with traumatic injury are insufficiently described. The objective is to describe the epidemiology and outcomes of DNR orders in trauma patients.

Methods: We included all adults with trauma to a community Level I Trauma Center over 6 years (2008-2013). We used chi-square, Wilcoxon rank-sum, and multivariate stepwise logistic regression tests to characterize DNR (established in-house vs. pre-existing), describe predictors of establishing an in-house DNR, timing of an in-house DNR (early [within 1 day] vs late), and outcomes (death, ICU stay, major complications).

Results: Included were 10,053 patients with trauma, of which 1523 had a DNR order in place (15%); 715 (7%) had a pre-existing DNR and 808 (8%) had a DNR established in-house. Increases were observed over time in both the proportions of patients with DNRs established in-house (p = 0.008) and age ≥65 (p < 0.001). Over 90% of patients with an in-house DNR were ≥65 years. The following covariates were independently associated with establishing a DNR in-house: age ≥65, severe neurologic deficit (GCS 3-8), fall mechanism of injury, ED tachycardia, female gender, and comorbidities (p < 0.05 for all). Age ≥65, female gender, non-surgical service admission and transfers-in were associated with a DNR established early (p < 0.05 for all). As expected, mortality was greater in patients with DNR than those without (22% vs. 1%), as was the development of a major complication (8% vs. 5%), while ICU admission was similar (19% vs. 17%). Poor outcomes were greatest in patients with DNR orders executed later in the hospital stay.

Conclusions: Our analysis of a broad cohort of patients with traumatic injury establishes the relationship between DNR and patient characteristics and outcomes. At 15%, DNR orders are prevalent in our general trauma population, particularly in patients ≥65 years, and are placed early after arrival. Established prognostic factors, including age and physiologic severity, were determinants for in-house DNR orders. These data may improve physician predictions of outcomes with DNR and help inform patient preferences, particularly in an environment with increasing use of DNR and increasing age of patients with trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Resuscitation Orders*
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Trauma Centers / organization & administration*
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy*