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Highest death risk comes weeks after low level trauma: Study

Most trauma patients' chance for survival improves over time, but less serious trauma patients see their death risk peak 24 days after injury.

By Stephen Feller

LEICESTER, England, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Generally, the risk of death after trauma decreases over time, but researchers in England found that to not necessarily be true in the case of patients who have suffered lower levels of traumatic injury.

Lower severity trauma patients' risk of death peaks about two to three weeks after an injury, researchers at the University of Leicester report in a new study published in the journal Computers in Biology and Medicine.

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Previous studies have established the risk of death after trauma is greatest either at the scene of an injury or within hours after, however many patients also die within weeks -- often within 30 days of injury -- from a range of causes, related either to the injury itself or a secondary condition such as infection or sepsis.

University of Leicester researchers were examining 165,559 records of trauma cases collected in the Trauma Audit and Research Network database, the largest such database in Europe. Among these, the researchers found 19,289 had "unknown outcome."

The researchers argue these outcomes are not missed, but more likely are either "alive" or mischaracterized in other ways. They cite the inability of humans to review thousands of records in a timely fashion, designing a method of examination they say can be used for analysis of other large collections of health records.

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The need for methods of accurately including these "missing" records when conducting an analysis is important, the researchers said in a press release, because a complete picture is essential for accuracy and believability control of studies.

"For the whole analyzed TARN dataset the coefficient of mortality monotonically decreases in time but the stratified analysis of the mortality gives a different result: for lower severities the coefficient of mortality is a non-monotonic function of the time after injury and may have maxima at the second and third weeks," researchers wrote in the study. "The approach developed here can be applied to various healthcare datasets which experience the problem of lost patients and missed outcomes."

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