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Acad Emerg Med. 1995 Mar;2(3):190-4.

Utility of routine admission serum chemistry panels in adult trauma patients.

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New Jersey Medical School, Newark, USA.



To determine the frequency of abnormal serum chemistries and whether they provide clinically useful information regarding trauma patients. To identify clinical criteria associated with critical serum chemistry values (CSCVs).


The records of all trauma patients admitted to one urban, Level I Trauma Center were retrospectively reviewed for the period (July 1-December 31, 1989). All trauma patients who had had serum chemistry determinations at hospital admission and at least once more prior to discharge were studied. The CSCVs were determined by a panel of experts prior to record review. Serum chemistry values, patient demographics, mechanisms of injury, and outcomes were statistically analyzed.


Most (814/913; 89%) trauma patients had abnormal serum chemistry values. However, only 54/913 (6%) had CSCVs and only six of these CSCVs had prompted a change in resuscitation or treatment (therapeutic K+ infusions). Age > 50 years, a history of hypertension therapy, and a Glasgow Coma Scale score < or = 10 were associated with CSCVs; and CSCVs were correlated with increased mortality and critical care unit admission.


Routine-admission serum chemistry values, while frequently abnormal for major trauma patients, generally do not provide clinically useful information in the resuscitation and treatment of trauma patients. Hypoglycemia and metabolic acidosis were more rapidly determined using bedside glucose determination and arterial blood gas evaluation. The routine-admission serum chemistry panel described in the study lacked utility for most trauma patients. Selective chemistry panel ordering should be used at the time of hospital admission for major trauma patients.

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