Study objective: To determine whether triage and stabilization of severely injured rural trauma victims in outlying Level III emergency departments before transfer to Level I trauma centers results in outcomes similar to national normative data.
Design: Retrospective review of trauma transfers and deaths during a 4-year period.
Setting: Two Level III EDs in rural, upstate New York and an urban Level I regional trauma center.
Participants: Fifty multiple-trauma victims with a Trauma Triage Score (T-RTS) of < or = 11 or less. Forty-three patients were stabilized before transfer, and 7 died in the rural Level III ED.
Results: There were 45 blunt injuries and 5 penetrating injuries. Mean patient age was 34 years (range, 9 months to 97 years). The Revised Trauma Score (RTS) on admission to the Level III ED was calculated for each patient (median score, 5.97; interquartile range (IQR), 4.09 to 6.90), as was the ultimate Injury Severity Score (ISS) (median score, 23; IQR, 13 to 29). With TRISS methodology, probabilities of survival (Ps) and death (Pd) were calculated. Results were compared with the Major Trauma Outcome Study (MTOS) by use of current coefficients derived from Walker-Duncan regression analysis of MTOS data. The predicted number of deaths was 13.5, whereas the actual number was 12, Z statistic, -.710. There were two unexpected survivors and three unexpected deaths. The 43 patients who were stabilized and transferred had a median RTS of 5.97 (IQR, 4.30 to 6.90) and an ISS of 18 (IQR, 12 to 25). The median interval in the Level III ED before transfer was 1 hour 43 minutes (IQR, 1 hour 11 minutes to 2 hours 40 minutes). There were two unexpected survivors (Ps = .32, Ps = .49) and 1 unexpected death (Ps = .52). The predicted number of deaths was 8.1, whereas the actual number was 5. The 7 patients who died in the rural Level III ED had a median RTS of 4.41 (IQR, 2.98 to 4.71) and a median ISS of 50 (IQR, 44 to 65). The median interval in the Level III ED before death was 42 minutes (IQR, 41 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes). There were 2 unexpected deaths (Ps = .66, Ps = .55). The predicted number of deaths was 5.4 whereas the actual number was 7.
Conclusion: Triage and stabilization of severely injured rural trauma victims at Level III EDs before Level I transfer provide outcomes similar to national results. Unexpected death of severely injured trauma victims remains a problem in rural Level III EDs.