The distribution of trauma deaths was classically described as trimodal. With advances in both technology and trauma systems, this was reevaluated and found to be bimodal in the early 2000s. Over the last decade there have been continued improvements in trauma and intensive care unit (ICU) care, related to damage control techniques and evidence based ICU pathways. A better understanding of the distribution of trauma deaths may be used to improve trauma systems. This study aimed to evaluate the contemporary distribution of trauma deaths after the widespread implementation of modern trauma and critical care principles.
This study included patients entered in the NTDB from 2008 to 2014. For dead patients, hospital length of stay was equated to time until death. Additional data was collected to include demographics, mechanism of injury, Injury Severity Score, and Abbreviated Injury Scale score. Histograms were plotted to demonstrate peaks in deaths. Survival analysis was performed with Kaplan-Meier curves and Gehan-Breslow generalized Wilcoxon tests.
4,185,009 patients were analyzed. Thirty-four percent of all deaths occurred within the first 24 hours of admission. The factors most associated with death in the first 24 hours were severe abdominal trauma (73%), penetrating trauma (55%), and severe extremity trauma (58%). Among patients with penetrating trauma and an abdominal Abbreviated Injury Scale score of 4 or higher, 83% of deaths occurred within 24 hours. When plotted, the distribution of deaths was seen to fall rapidly after the first 24 hours and continued to be flat for 30 days in all subgroups analyzed.
In this study, the distribution of trauma deaths no longer appears to be trimodal. This may reflect advances in trauma and ICU care, and the widespread adaption of damage control principles. Early deaths, however, remains a significant challenge, specifically from non-compressible abdominal hemorrhage and extremity trauma. Primary prevention and early hemorrhage control must continue to be a focus of research and trauma systems.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE
Epidemiologic, level IV.