Interfacility transfer of patients from Level III/IV to Level I/II (tertiary) trauma centers has been associated with improved outcomes. However, little data are available classifying the specific subsets of patients that derive maximal benefit from transfer to a tertiary trauma center. Drawbacks to transfer include increased secondary overtriage. Here, we ask which injury patterns are associated with improved survival following interfacility transfer.
Data from the National Trauma Data Bank was utilized. Inclusion criteria were adults (≥16 years). Patients with Injury Severity Score of 10 or less or those who arrived with no signs of life were excluded. Patients were divided into two cohorts: those admitted to a Level III/IV trauma center versus those transferred into a tertiary trauma center. Multiple imputation was performed for missing values, and propensity scores were generated based on demographics, injury patterns, and disease severity. Using propensity score–stratified Cox proportional hazards regression, the hazard ratio for time to death was estimated.
Twelve thousand five hundred thirty-four (5.2%) were admitted to Level III/IV trauma centers, and 227,315 (94.8%) were transferred to a tertiary trauma center. Patients transferred to a tertiary trauma center had reduced mortality (hazard ratio, 0.69; p < 0.001). We identified that patients with traumatic brain injury with Glasgow Coma Scale score less than 13, pelvic fracture, penetrating mechanism, solid organ injury, great vessel injury, respiratory distress, and tachycardia benefited from interfacility transfer to a tertiary trauma center. In this sample, 56.8% of the patients benefitted from transfer. Among those not transferred, 49.5% would have benefited from being transferred.
Interfacility transfer is associated with a survival benefit for specific patients. These data support implementation of minimum evidence-based criteria for interfacility transfer.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE
Therapeutic/Care Management, Level IV.