All posts by TheTraumaPro

Why People Don’t Change Their Minds Despite The Data

Has this happened to you?

Your (emergency physician / neurosurgeon / orthopaedic surgeon) colleague wants to (get rib detail xrays / administer steroids / wait a few days before doing a femur ORIF). You question it based on your interpretation of the literature. You even provide a stack of papers to them to prove your point. Do they buy it? Even in the presence of randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies with thousands of patients (good luck finding those)?

The answer is generally NO! Why not? It’s science. It’s objective data. WTF?

Sociologists and psychologists have shown that there is a concept that they call the Backfire Effect. Essentially, once you come to believe something, you do your best to protect it from harm. You become more skeptical of facts that refute your beliefs, and less skeptical of the items that support them. Having one’s beliefs challenged, even with objective and authoritative data, causes us to hold them even more deeply. There are plenty of examples of this in everyday life. The absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The number of shooters in the JFK assassination. President Obama’s citizenship.

Bottom line: It’s human nature to try to pick apart a scientific article that challenges your biases, looking for every possible fault. It’s the Backfire Effect. Be aware of this built in flaw (protective mechanism?) in our psyche. And always ask yourself, “what if?” Look at the issue through the eyes of someone not familiar with the concepts. If someone challenges your beliefs, welcome it! Be skeptical of both them AND yourself. You might just learn something new!

Hard Time Discharging Your Trauma Patient?

Trauma services tend to have fairly rapid patient turnover. Many of the patients that are seen have injuries that are easily managed, leading to discharge within one to two days. On the flip side, some have such severe injuries that they may be in the hospital for weeks or even months. But regardless of injury, there are always a few who we just can’t seem to discharge at all. Why does this happen?

The trauma program at the Massachusetts General Hospital looked at 5 years worth of admission data on adult patients. They looked at the usual hospital demographics, billing information, hospital financial information, and discharge disposition. The ultimate goal was to identify patients who had an excessively prolonged hospitalization (defined as 2 standard deviations above the average length of stay for the associated Diagnosis Related Group) and why.

Here are the factoids:

  • 155 of 3237 admitted patients (5%) had an extended stay. The total number of admits seems weird, since this would average out to only 650 admissions per year to this busy hospital.
  • The usual injury severity demographics were similar.
  • Extended stay patients tended to be older, sustained blunt trauma, were Medicare or no-pay patients, and were discharged to facilities other than home.
  • Length of stay was 3 times longer than the usual patients
  • Hospital cost was 3 times higher, and the hospital lost a lot of money on them.
  • In-hospital mortality was lower for these patients (?!).
  • The biggest factors delaying discharge were transfer to a rehab or other post-acute care facility, and self-pay or Medicare pay status.

Bottom line: Extended stay in the hospital when not medically indicated is a bad thing, and it’s a system problem. The chance of complications is always present, including deep venous thrombosis, exposure to resistant organisms, UTI, pneumonia, and medication error, just to name a few. And it’s generally bad for the hospital’s financial health, as well. If you are experiencing this at your center, carefully analyze the reasons why it typically occurs. Then work proactively to address them.

  • Identify potential problem discharge patients on their first day in the hospital
  • Develop special arrangements with post-discharge facilities.
  • Hire skilled (and aggressive) social workers
  • Don’t give up!

Related post:

Reference: Excessively long hospital stays after trauma are not related to the severity of illness. JAMA Surg 148(10):956-961, 2013.

The  July Trauma MedEd Newsletter Is Available!

This month’s newsletter addresses the trauma practice guidelines and protocols. Here are the topics covered:

  • Why create protocols / guidelines?
  • What’s the difference, and why is one preferable to the other?
  • Developing your own
  • Sample guidelines for: chest tube management, solid organ injury, TBI on warfarin, and management of SAH / IPH / skull fracture without neurosurgery!

Subscribers received this issue last week. Subscribe now and be sure to get the next issue early.  So sign up for early delivery now by clicking here!

Click here to download the current issue

Pick up back issues here!

Enoxaparin And Pregnancy

Pregnant women get seriously injured, too. And pregnancy is an independent risk factor for deep venous thrombosis. We reflexively start at-risk patients on prophylactic agents for DVT, the most common being enoxaparin. But is it safe to give enoxaparin during pregnancy?

Studies have looked at drug levels in cord blood when the mother is receiving enoxaparin, and none has been found. No specific bleeding complications have been identified, either. So from the baby’s standpoint, administration is probably safe.

However, there are two other issues to consider. In a study looking at the use of enoxaparin for prophylaxis in women with a mechanical heart valve, 2 of 8 women (and their babies) died. Both suffered from clots that developed and blocked the valves. Most likely, the standard dose of enoxaparin was insufficient, so monitoring of anti-Factor Xa levels must be done.

The other problem lies in the multi-dose vial of Lovenox (Sanofi-Aventis). Each 100mg vial contains 45mg of benzyl alcohol, which has been associated with a fatal “gasping syndrome” in premature infants. The individual dose syringes do not have this preservative.

Bottom line: It is probably safe to give enoxaparin to pregnant women after trauma. However, it is unclear if the dose needs to be increased to achieve adequate prophylaxis. Only consider using this medication after consultation with the patient’s obstetrician, and use only the individual dose syringes. Otherwise fall back to standard subcutaneous non-fractionated heparin (even though it is a Category C drug by FDA; it is still considered the anticoagulant of choice during pregnancy).

Impact Of A Geriatric Trauma Service

I previously wrote about the impact of adding a hospitalist to the trauma service to improve care of geriatric trauma patients. Method Dallas Medical Center created a specific geriatric trauma service, which they called the G-60 service, in 2009. They published their data after one year of experience in 2012.

All patients 60 years of age and older with injuries <48 hours old were admitted to a specific hospital unit. All admitted patients were seen immediately by the trauma surgeon and a hospitalist. Other involved services included rehab, palliative care, PT and OT, pharmacy, nutrition, respiratory therapy, and social work, as needed. The hospitalist was also tasked with expedited clearance for surgical procedures.

Time-to-care goals included G-60 service activation and ED evaluation within 30 minutes, admission to the G-60 unit within 4 hours, operative procedures (if needed) within 36 hours, and discharge within 5 days if appropriate. Multidisciplinary rounds with the full complement of personnel were held twice weekly.

A total of 393 patients were admitted to the G-60 service over a period of one year. A control group of 280 patients from the year before implementation were used for comparison.

Here are the factoids:

  • Mechanism of injury was blunt 98% of the time, as expected. Most were falls, and the frequency increased from 68% to 75% after implementation of G-60.
  • ICU admission rate remained steady at about 20%
  • Significant time-to-care decreases were seen in all 4 categories. ED length of stay decreased by 2 hours, and time to OR decreased by more than half a day.
  • Hospital length to stay decreased from 7 to 5 days, and ICU LOS decreased from 5 to 3 days. Both were statistically and financially significant.
  • There were significant decreases in the incidence of complications, including UTI, renal failure, CHF, ventilator associated pneumonia, and respiratory failure.
  • There was no change in DVT or PE rates.

Bottom line: Implementation of a multidisciplinary trauma service that addresses the special problems of injured elderly patients improves outcomes, and would appear to save a lot of money. I have observed a very obvious age shift in the trauma population at my own trauma center, and I know quite a few other trauma medical directors who are seeing the same thing. We are all going to need to develop the equivalent of a G-60 service to improve outcomes and reduce the financial challenges of taking care of these patients. However, using age 60 as the threshold will miss a number of elders who might benefit. Frailty measures and common sense will need to be taken into account to make sure all appropriate patients can benefit from this type of service.

Reference: Geriatric trauma service: A one-year experience. J Trauma 72(1):119-122, 2012.