Increased trauma activation is not equally beneficial for all elderly trauma patients

Bryan W. Carr, Peter M. Hammer, Lava Timsina, Grace Rozycki, David V. Feliciano, Jamie J. Coleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND Physiologic changes in the elderly lead to higher morbidity and mortality after injury. Increasing level of trauma activation has been proposed to improve geriatric outcomes, but the increased cost to the patient and stress to the hospital system are significant downsides. The purpose of this study was to identify the age at which an increase in activation status is beneficial. METHODS A retrospective review of trauma patients 70 years or older from October 1, 2011, to October 1, 2016, was performed. On October 1, 2013, a policy change increased the activation criteria to the highest level for patients 70 years or older with a significant mechanism of injury. Patients who presented prior to (PRE) were compared with those after the change (POST). Data collected included age, Injury Severity Score (ISS), length of stay (LOS), complications, and mortality. Primary outcome was mortality, and secondary outcome was LOS. Multivariable regressions controlled for age, ISS, injury mechanism, and number of complications. RESULTS A total of 4,341 patients met the inclusion criteria, 1,919 in PRE and 2,422 in POST. Mean age was 80.4 and 81 years in PRE and POST groups, respectively (p = 0.0155). Mean ISS values were 11.6 and 12.4 (p < 0.0001) for the PRE and POST groups. POST had more Level 1 activations (696 vs. 220, p < 0.0001). After controlling for age, ISS, mechanism of injury, and number of complications, mortality was significantly reduced in the POST group 77 years or older (odds ratio, 0.53; 95% confidence interval, 0.3-0.87) (Fig. 1). Hospital LOS was significantly reduced in the POST group age 78 years or older (regression coefficient, -0.55; 95% confidence interval, -1.09 to -0.01) (Fig. 2). CONCLUSIONS This study suggests geriatric trauma patients 77 years or older benefit from the highest level of trauma activation with shorter LOS and lower mortality. A focused approach to increasing activation level for elderly patients may decrease patient cost.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)598-602
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Geriatric trauma
  • trauma activation criteria
  • triage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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