Prehospital traumatic cardiac arrest: the cost of futility

J Trauma. 1993 Sep;35(3):468-73; discussion 473-4.


Of 12,462 trauma patients cared for by prehospital services from October 1, 1989 to March 31, 1991, 138 patients underwent CPR at the scene or during transport because of the absence of blood pressure, pulse, and respiration. Ninety-six (70%) suffered blunt trauma, 42 (30%) suffered penetrating trauma. Sixty (43%) were transported by air utilizing county-wide transport protocols. None of the patients survived. Aggregate care cost $871,186.00. In 11 cases (8%), tissue for transplantation was procured (only corneas).

Conclusion: Trauma patients who require CPR at the scene or in transport die. Infrequent organ procurement does not seem to justify the cost (primarily borne by hospitals), consumption of resources, and exposure of health care providers to occupational health hazards. The wisdom of transporting trauma victims suffering cardiopulmonary arrest at the scene or during transport must be questioned. Allocation of resources to these patients is not an insular medical issue, but a broad concern for our society, and society should decide if the "cost of futility" is excessive.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / economics
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Emergency Medical Services / economics*
  • Heart Arrest / economics*
  • Heart Arrest / etiology
  • Heart Arrest / therapy*
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Humans
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Transportation of Patients / economics
  • Trauma Centers
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications*
  • Wounds and Injuries / economics*
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy