-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Although traumatic
injuries can be even more dangerous for the elderly than for other
adults, these patients often do not receive the specialized care
they need, according to a new study.
Many older people with serious injuries are not taken to
designated trauma centers -- which are equipped with the technology
and tools doctors need to treat traumatic injuries -- to receive
specialized care, the researchers said. These patients have a
higher mortality rate after they are discharged from the hospital,
the study found.
"We're not sure why this is happening, but there is clearly a bias," study lead author Dr. Kristan Staudenmayer, assistant professor of surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine in Stanford, Calif., said in a news release from the American College of Surgeons. "They could be walking through the living room, trip, and fall. That [event] may not hurt a young person, but it can severely injure an elderly person, especially if that elderly person is frail and has a lot of other health conditions."
Unintentional falls are the most common cause of traumatic
injuries -- such as spine, hip and brain injuries -- among adults
older than 65, the researchers noted.
Without considering older people's underlying health conditions,
first responders may not realize the extent of their injuries, the
study authors said.
"Even if we know they have heart disease or another condition, that's not sufficient to tell us how strong or weak they are," said Staudenmayer. "I know plenty of people with diabetes who look pretty healthy."
The study, published in the October issue of the
Journal of the American College of Surgeons, involved
information compiled on more than 6,000 patients aged 55 and older
injured between January 2006 and December 2007. The researchers
examined state hospital discharge reports, patient records,
emergency department records, trauma registry data and death
certificates in order to compare patient outcomes 60 days after
being discharged from the hospital.
The patients treated at designated trauma centers had a 60-day
mortality rate of 5.7 percent, compared to 9 percent at other
hospitals, the study found. The median length of stay at trauma
centers was also one day shorter than other hospitals.
About 4 percent of the patients in the study had a serious
injury that needed specialized care at a trauma center. Of these
patients, nearly one-third should have been taken to a trauma
center but were not.
However, death rates were similar at designated trauma centers
and nontrauma centers, the findings showed. Elderly patients often
die after they are discharged from the hospital, the study authors
"This result actually leads to more questions," Staudenmayer said. "We need to determine which elderly patients actually are benefiting from trauma care and who would benefit more."
The study also found that receiving care at trauma centers cost
more than $20,000 more than care received at nontrauma centers.
"Ensuring that specialized medical care and extra resources [are available] costs more money at a trauma center," Staudenmayer explained.
More than 2.3 million nonfatal injuries among older adults are
treated in emergency rooms each year, costing about $30 billion in
direct medical care, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
injury prevention and control among older
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