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J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2013 Oct;75(4):687-92. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e31829a0ac7.

Who needs an orthopedic trauma surgeon? An analysis of US national injury patterns.

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From the Department of Orthopaedics (R.C.C.), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Departments of Emergency Medicine (B.G.C.), Surgery (P.M.R.), and Orthopaedic Surgery (S.M.), Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; and Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics (B.G.C., M.J.K.), and Leonard Davis Institute of Healthcare Economics (B.G.C.), University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.



Many hospitals in the United States are seeking to obtain and maintain trauma credentialing. Assessment of trauma center success has traditionally focused on mortality without directed measure of surgical subspecialization. However, survival alone may not be a sufficient marker of success with modern health care. The purpose of this study was to determine the number of trauma patients nationally who would benefit from subspecialized care by an orthopedic traumatologist.


A list of musculoskeletal DRG International Classification of Diseases-9th Rev. codes representing injuries warranting care by subspecialized orthopedic traumatologists was generated by survey to each of two cohorts: one consisting of 10 subspecialized orthopedic traumatologists and one consisting of 10 nontraumatologists. The 2006 National Inpatient Sample data set was used to estimate the national volume of patients sustaining an orthopedic injury and the number requiring subspecialty orthopedic trauma care, as defined by the DRG International Classification of Diseases-9th Rev. lists generated by our survey.


Survey response rate was 100%. In 2006, 2,068,349 patients sustained a traumatic injury; 46.7% of these had an orthopedic injury. Our cohort of subspecialized orthopedic traumatologists identified 25.7% of all trauma patients as requiring an orthopedic traumatologist. Our cohort of general orthopedists identified 13.5% of all trauma patients as requiring an orthopedic traumatologist. Rates of polytrauma, injury severity, and treatment at trauma centers were similar between the two groups.


Between 13.5% and 25.7% of all injured patients should, if resources permit, receive subspecialty orthopedic trauma care. The magnitude of this figure highlights the importance, from a public health perspective, of policy interventions aimed at better coordinating the field of orthopedic traumatology. Detailed outcome measures beyond mortality and triage guidelines suggesting which patients should receive subspecialty orthopedic trauma care should be developed. In addition, resources, including fellowship training, should be allocated in a methodical manner that matches supply to the national demand for this type of care.


Economic/decision analysis, level IV.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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