The impact of advanced age on trauma triage decisions and outcomes: a statewide analysis.
Physiologic variables used in trauma triage criteria may be significantly affected by age, decreasing their predictive value in geriatric trauma. The study population was all adult patients in the Washington State Trauma Registry from 2000 to 2004. Elderly patients were defined as those aged >65 years. Multivariate analyses were conducted to evaluate the relationship between age and trauma triage decisions, need for emergent interventions, and outcomes. Of 51,227 trauma admissions, 13,820 (27%) were for elderly patients. Elderly patients were significantly less likely to have trauma team activation (14% vs 29%, P <.01), despite a similar percentage of severe injuries (injury severity score > 15), and more often required urgent craniotomy (10% vs 6%, P <.01) and orthopedic procedures (67% vs 51%, P <.01). Heart rate and blood pressure were not predictive of severe injury for those aged >65 years. Undertriaged elderly patients had 4 times the mortality rate and discharge disability of younger patients (both P values <.001). Elderly trauma victims are less likely to undergo rapid trauma evaluation and have significantly worse outcomes compared with younger patients. Standard physiologic triage variables may not identify severe injury in older patients.