Background: Elderly patients suffer higher mortality rates after trauma than younger patients. This increased mortality is attributable to age, preexisting disease, and complications as well as injury severity.
Methods: Records from 5,139 adult patients from a Level I trauma center were retrospectively reviewed. Injury Severity Score (ISS), Revised Trauma Score (RTS), early mortality (<24 hours), and late mortality (>24 hours) were determined for elderly (> or =65 years) and younger (16-64 years) patients. Preexisting diseases and complications were identified by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification diagnosis coding.
Results: Mortality in elderly patients was twice that in younger patients despite equivalent injury severity (p < 0.001), and elderly patients were more likely to suffer later death than younger patients (p < 0.005). The prevalence of preexisting disease was greater in the elderly, as was the incidence of complications. Using logistic regression, ISS, RTS, preexisting cardiovascular or liver disease, the development of cardiac, renal, or infectious complications, and geriatric status were all independently predictive of late mortality (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Elderly trauma patients more frequently suffer late mortality than younger patients because of the combination of injury and increased preexisting disease and complications after injury. Aggressive treatment of the elderly trauma patient is warranted; however, in the face of significant preexisting disease or complications, survival is less likely. Predictive models of survival can be developed, taking into account preexisting disease and complications as well as admission parameters such as age, ISS, and RTS, and specific risk of mortality quantitated.