Surviving traumatic cardiac arrest: Identification of factors associated with survival

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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Introduction: The endpoint of resuscitative interventions after traumatic injury resulting in cardiopulmonary arrest varies across institutions and even among providers. The purpose of this study was to examine survival characteristics in patients suffering torso trauma with no recorded vital signs (VS) in the emergency department (ED).

Methods: The National Trauma Data Bank was analyzed from 2007 to 2015. Inclusion criteria were patients with blunt and penetrating torso trauma without VS in the ED. Patients with head injuries, transfers from other hospitals, or those with missing values were excluded. The characteristics of survivors were evaluated, and statistical analyses performed.

Results: A total of 24,191 torso trauma patients without VS were evaluated in the ED and 96.6% were declared dead upon arrival. There were 246 survivors (1%), and 73 (0.3%) were eventually discharged home. Of patients who responded to resuscitation (812), the survival rate was 30.3%. Injury severity score (ISS), penetrating mechanism (odds ratio [OR] 1.99), definitive chest (OR 1.59) and abdominal surgery (OR 1.49) were associated with improved survival. Discharge to home (or police custody) was associated with lower ISS (OR 0.975) and shorter ED time (OR 0.99).

Conclusion: Over a recent nine-year period in the United States, nearly 25,000 trauma patients were treated at trauma centers despite lack of VS. Of these patients, only 73 were discharged home. A trauma center would have to attempt over one hundred resuscitations of traumatic arrests to save one patient, confirming previous reports that highlight a grave prognosis. This creates a dilemma in treatment for front line workers and physicians with resource utilization and consideration of safety of exposure, particularly in the face of COVID-19.

Keywords: Blunt trauma; Cardiac arrest; Penetrating trauma; Resuscitation; Trauma.