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Patients Transferred for Emergency Upper Extremity Evaluation: Does Insurance Status Matter?

Eberlin, Kyle R. M.D.; Hartzell, Tristan L. M.D.; Kuo, Phoebe B.S.; Winograd, Jonathan M.D.; Day, Charles M.D., M.B.A.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: March 2013 - Volume 131 - Issue 3 - p 593–600
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e31827c6e82
Hand/Peripheral Nerve: Original Articles

Background: Academic institutions receive many patients transferred specifically for hand surgery evaluation. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the demographics and insurance status of patients transferred for this reason.

Methods: A retrospective review was performed of 155 transferred and 1017 nontransferred patients with a primary hand diagnosis during 3 summer months at two urban academic institutions. Patients were evaluated for insurance status/type, medical comorbidities, employment status, and reason for transfer. Insurance was defined as present/absent and favorable/unfavorable, with unfavorable defined as Medicaid or state-sponsored insurance. Reason for transfer or presenting diagnosis was separated by category.

Results: The mean age was similar between groups, but a higher percentage of transfer patients were men (69.9 percent versus 59.7 percent; p < 0.05). The percentage of insured patients was similar (92.9 percent versus 93.2 percent), but the number with no insurance or undesirable insurance was greater for transferred patients (30.1 percent versus 22.9 percent; p < 0.05). Patients with poor or no insurance were twice as likely to be inappropriately transferred (OR, 2.17; p = 0.03). Transferred patients were less likely to be employed (55.1 percent versus 64.8 percent; p < 0.05); however, the percentages of workers' compensation (13.5 percent versus 14.6 percent) and diabetes (6.41 percent versus 6.10 percent) cases were similar. Common reasons for transfer were closed fractures/dislocations (21.9 percent), infection (17.4 percent), and amputation/devascularization (17.4 percent).

Conclusion: Patients transferred to tertiary care centers for emergency upper extremity evaluation have a higher rate of undesirable or no insurance and are more likely to be male or unemployed.


Boston, Mass.; and Norfolk, Neb.

From the Division of Plastic Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School; Faith Regional Health Services; and the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School.

Received for publication April 26, 2012; accepted September 7, 2012.

Disclosure: The authors have no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this article.

Kyle R. Eberlin, M.D.; Division of Plastic Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit Street, WACC 435, Boston, Mass. 02114,

©2013American Society of Plastic Surgeons