The impact of trauma-center care on mortality and function following pelvic ring and acetabular injuries

Saam Morshed, Simon Knops, Gregory J Jurkovich, Jin Wang, Ellen MacKenzie, Frederick P Rivara
Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. American Volume 2015 February 18, 97 (4): 265-72

BACKGROUND: Lower mortality and improved physical function following major polytrauma have been associated with treatment at level-I trauma centers compared with that at hospitals without a trauma center (nontrauma centers). This study investigated the impact of trauma-center care on outcomes after pelvic and acetabular injuries.

METHODS: Mortality and quality-of-life-related scores were compared among patients treated in eighteen level-I trauma centers and fifty-one nontrauma centers in fourteen U.S. states. Complete data were obtained on 829 adult trauma patients (eighteen to eighty-four years old) who had at least one pelvic ring or acetabular injury (Orthopaedic Trauma Association [OTA] classification of 61 or 62). We used inverse probability of treatment weighting to adjust for observable confounding.

RESULTS: After adjusting for case mix, we found that, for patients with more severe acetabular injuries (OTA 62-B or 62-C), in-hospital mortality was significantly lower at trauma centers compared with nontrauma centers (relative risk [RR], 0.10; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.02 to 0.47), as was death within ninety days (RR, 0.10; 95% CI, 0.02 to 0.47) and within one year (RR, 0.21; 95% CI, 0.06 to 0.76). Patients with combined pelvic ring and acetabular injuries treated at a trauma center had lower mortality at ninety days (RR, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.14 to 0.82) and at one year (RR, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.14 to 0.68). Care at trauma centers was also associated with mortality risk reduction for those with unstable pelvic ring injuries (OTA 61-B or 61-C) at one year (RR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.24 to 0.91). Seventy-eight percent of included subjects discharged alive were available for interview at twelve months. For those with more severe acetabular injuries, average absolute differences in the Short Form-36 (SF-36) physical function component and the Musculoskeletal Function Assessment at one year were 11.4 (95% CI, 5.3 to 17.4) and 13.2 (1.7 to 24.7), respectively, indicating statistically and clinically significant improved outcomes following treatment at a trauma center for those patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Mortality was reduced for patients with unstable pelvic and severe acetabular injuries when care was provided in a trauma center compared with a nontrauma center. Moreover, those with severe acetabular fractures experienced improved physical function at one year. Patients with these injuries represent a well-defined subset of trauma patients for whom our findings suggest preferential triage or transfer to a level-I trauma center.

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