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 Injured Seniors More Likely To Die In Trauma Centers That Treat Large Numbers Of Younger Patients, Study Finds

​Traumatically injured seniors appear to be at a higher risk for death when they’re treated at hospitals that also treat high volumes of younger patients, a new study has found.

It has become an article of faith that falls, car accidents, and other traumas are disproportionately hard on the elderly because of the myriad health complications of growing old, but researchers analyzing more than a decade of data from trauma centers in Pennsylvania found that injured seniors were 25 percent less likely to die at a hospital that treated at least 100 more elderly people than younger people, the team found.

“Our data also suggest that geriatric trauma patients were less likely to develop major complications at trauma centers with higher geriatric trauma volume and that patients who developed major complications were more likely to be successfully rescued at these centers,” University of Southern California Fellow Kazuhide Matsushima says in presenting his team’s findings. “Furthermore, our study showed that the institutional nongeriatric trauma volume adversely affects the outcomes of geriatric trauma patients, most prominently influencing the rate of major complications.”

It’s early to suss out the study’s implications. Matsushima and his colleagues emphasize that there are contradictory reports about senior outcomes in trauma centers but the relationship between treating seniors for trauma and the seniors’ outcomes “is an emerging target for study and improvement.” 

Matsushima and his colleagues say they hope their findings “help focus the discussion” about how to respond to seniors’ trauma. 

“These findings emphasize the importance of differentiated pathways of care for specific high-risk groups of patients,” he writes. “These observations suggest that an institution’s interventions to improve outcomes among its trauma patients may need to consider the needs of specific subgroups such as the elderly.”

The findings were presented in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s surgery newsletter earlier this week.

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