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ANZ J Surg. 2009 Jun;79(6):443-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-2197.2009.04946.x.

Performance and consistency of care in admitted trauma patients: our next great opportunity in trauma care?

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Department of Trauma, Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, Australia.


Few studies have prospectively analysed the delivery of care in trauma patients. This study undertook a prospective analysis of performance and consistency of care at a Level 1 trauma centre. A 3-month prospective study was undertaken of all admitted trauma patients at Liverpool Hospital. Data were collected on patient demographics, mechanism of injury, injury severity score (ISS), length of hospital stay, patient outcome and cause of death. Delivery of care was evaluated using 30 performance indicators and assessment of errors. Two hundred and thirty-six consecutive major trauma patients were studied. 73.3% were male, mean age 39 years. The main mechanism of injury was road trauma in 46.2%. Mean ISS was 12 and 64 patients had an ISS > or = 16. Error-free care was delivered in 145/236 (61.4%). There were 145 errors in 91 patients (38.6%). Errors in judgement and delays in diagnosis accounted for 56/145 (38.6%) and 48/145 (33.1%), respectively. Errors occurred most commonly in the Emergency Department (ED) (48.3%), and trainees from all specialties were responsible for 67.5% of errors. There were 25 near misses detected. Three patients developed major sequelae or complications from errors. One of 13 deaths was deemed potentially preventable. This study has shown that while 61.4% of admitted trauma patients receive optimal care, errors are frequent, resulting in a spectrum of outcomes from near misses to death. The majority of errors result from the activity of unsupervised trainees and relate to errors in judgement and delays in diagnosis. Clearly, there is room for improvement of the delivery of trauma care.

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