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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2002 Feb;50(2):215-22.

Characteristics and outcomes of serious traumatic injury in older adults.

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School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.



To describe the seriously injured older adult; characterize and compare the differences in injury characteristics and outcomes in three subgroups of seriously injured older adults: aged 65 to 74, 75 to 84, and 85 and older; and identify risk factors for death, complications, and discharge placement at hospital discharge.


A retrospective secondary analysis of a statewide trauma data set from 1988 through 1997.


Data submitted from all designated trauma centers in Pennsylvania.


The data set yielded 38,707 patients with a mean age of 77.5 years with serious injury (mean number of injuries=3.6, mean number of body systems involved=2).


Key outcomes were mortality, complications, and discharge placement. Abbreviated Injury Score categorized injuries and Injury Severity Score (ISS) quantified anatomic severity of injury.


Mortality was 10%. Mean length of stay was 11.5 days. Just over half (52.2%) of survivors were discharged home; 25.4% were discharged to a skilled nursing facility. Injury severity, total number of injuries, complications, and increasing age were predictors of mortality (P <.01). The presence of preexisting comorbid medical conditions increased the odds of experiencing a complication over threefold. Increasing age, total number of injuries, injury to extremities or abdominal contents, injuries due to falls, and lower functional level predicted discharge to a skilled nursing facility (P <.01).


Traumatic injuries affect older adults of all ages and are typically multisystem and life threatening. The standard ISS does not fully capture the potential for mortality in older adults and does not predict discharge placement. The majority of older adults survive multisystem injury. Our findings indicate the need to examine outcomes beyond mortality and to make the identification and management of comorbid conditions a priority. A geriatric consultation service could be an important addition to the interdisciplinary trauma team.

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