Category Archives: How to

Appropriateness Of Nonsurgical Admissions

U.S. Trauma Centers that are verified by the American College of Surgeons must track the rate of trauma admissions to nonsurgical services. This is particularly important if the percentage of nonsurgical admissions exceeds 10% of their total admissions. The center’s performance improvement processes can then determine if the admission was appropriate and whether or not the trauma service should request a consult or transfer.

But how should we judge the appropriateness of nonsurgical admissions? There is tremendous variability in presenting mechanism and patient comorbidities. And the number of patients with some need for nonsurgical attention continues to grow with the rapidly increasing number of elderly falls.

The group at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore NY initially tracked all nonsurgical admissions and evaluated each individually at their community Level II trauma center. They then created and implemented a scoring system in order to develop a set of objective criteria that would predict patients better served with trauma consultation or admission.

The scoring tool was based on some of the information in the Optimal Resource Document, but was still somewhat arbitrary. The authors added criteria that reflected their own institutional philosophy of care. They explain their rationale clearly in the manuscript. Here is the final tool:

Criteria Points
Age > 65 years 1
3 or more comorbidities 1
ISS < 10 1
Ground level fall 1
No ICU admission 1
No need for surgical intervention 1
No blood products given 1

The maximum number of points possible is 7, with higher scores suggesting appropriateness for nonsurgical admission. The authors chose scores of 3 and 4 as the “grey zone” where further investigation was necessary to determine if a medical admission was proper. Lower numbers required trauma service admission, and higher ones did not.

The authors then examined changes in the percent of nonsurgical admissions after implementation, as well as mortality, morbidity, and hospital length of stay.

Here are the factoids:

  • Nonsurgical admission rates had historically been greater than 10% and had peaked at 28% at the time of scoring system implementation
  • After implementation, the nonsurgical admission rate dropped to under 10 %, where it remained for most of the time. There were a few spikes into the 14-17% range.
  • Mortality was insignificantly higher on the trauma service (2.1% vs 1.2%) as were complications (6.1% vs 5.5%)
  • Length of stay was statistically significantly longer on nonsurgical services (6.2 VS 5.1 days)

Bottom line: Centers that admit a large number of elderly falls patients may benefit from adopting this quick screening tool to determine the appropriate service. Ideally, all trauma patients would be admitted to the trauma service, but this is not feasible from a personnel and resource standpoint. If the number of potential nonsurgical admissions is high, applying a scoring system like this can help streamline the decision regarding admitting service.

Patients with very low scores (1-2) are obviously only appropriate for a trauma service admission. Likewise, those with very high scores (5-7) could easily and appropriately be managed on a hospital medicine service. The in-betweeners need more scrutiny by trauma program PI personnel to determine which service to admit to. 

Most importantly, don’t feel compelled to use this exact scoring system or threshold. Every hospital has different resources and a unique patient population. Add or remove criteria that you believe are appropriate. Adjust the threshold for added scrutiny as you see fit. Doing so will help keep your trauma PI workflow manageable.

Reference: Nonsurgical admissions with traumatic injury: medical patients are trauma patients, too. J Trauma Nursing 25(3):192-195, 2018.

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Submental Intubation – The Video!

Yesterday, I described a novel technique for providing a secure yet short-term airway tailored to patients who can’t have a tube in their mouth or nose. Patients undergoing multiple facial fracture repair are probably the best candidates for this procedure.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a video is even better. Please note that it is explicit and shows the blow by blow surgical procedure. Of note, it is a quick and relatively simple advanced airway technique. Note the cool music!

Related post:

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How To: The Serial Abdominal Exam

How often have you seen this in an admitting history and physical exam note? “Admit for observation; serial abdominal exams.” We say it so often it almost doesn’t mean anything. And during your training, did anyone really teach you how to do it? For most trauma professionals, I believe the answer is no.

Yet the serial abdominal exam is a key part of the management of many clinical issues, for both trauma patients as well as those with acute care surgical problems.

Here are the key points:

  • Establish a baseline. As an examiner, you need to be able to determine if your patient is getting worse. So you need to do an initial exam as a basis for comparisons.
  • Pay attention to analgesics. Make sure you know what was given last, and when. You do not need to withhold pain medications. They will reduce pain, but not eliminate it. You just need enough information to determine if the exam is getting worse with the same amount of medication on board.
  • Perform regular exams. It’s one thing to write down that serial exams will be done, but someone actually has to do them. How often? Consider how quickly your patient’s status could change, given the clinical possibilities you have in mind. In general, every 4 hours should be sufficient. Every shift is not. And be thorough!
  • Document, document, document. A new progress note should be written, dated and timed, every time you see your patient. Leave a detailed description of how the patient looks, vital signs, pertinent labs, and of course, exact details of the physical exam.
  • Practice good handoffs. Yes, we understand that you won’t be able to see the patient shift after shift. So when it’s time to handoff, bring the person relieving you and do the exam with them. You can describe the pertinent history, the exam to date, the analgesic history, and allow them to establish a baseline that matches yours. And of course, make sure they can contact you if there are any questions.
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How To Craft A Clinical Practice Guideline

All US trauma centers verified by the American College of Surgeons are required to have clinical practice guidelines (CPG). Trauma centers around the world generally have them, but may not be required to by their designating authority. But don’t confuse a policy about clinical management, say for head injury, with a real CPG. Policies are generally broad statements about how you (are supposed to) do things, whereas a CPG is a specific set of rules you use when managing a specific patient problem.

  1. Look around; don’t reinvent the wheel! This is the first mistake nearly every center makes. It seems like most want to spend hours and hours combing through the literature, trying to synthesize it and come up with a CPG from scratch. Guess what? Hundreds of other centers have already done this! And many have posted theirs online for all to see and learn from. Take advantage of their generosity. Look at several. Find the one that comes closest to meeting your needs. Then “borrow” it.
  2. Review the newest literature. Any existing CPG should have been created using the most up to date literature at the time. But that could have been several years ago. Look for anything new (and significant) that may require a few tweaks to the existing CPG.
  3. Create your draft, customizing it to your hospital. Doing things exactly the same as another center doesn’t always make sense, and it may not be possible. Tweak the protocols to match your resources and local standards of care. But don’t stray too far off of what the literature tells you is right.
  4. Make sure it is actionable. It should not be a literature summary, or a bunch of wishy-washy statements saying you could do this or consider doing that. Your CPG should spell out exactly what to do and when. (see examples below)
  5. Create a concise flow diagram. The fewer boxes the better. This needs to be easy to follow and simple to understand. It must fit on one page!
  6. Get buy-in from all services involved. Don’t try to implement your CPG by fiat. Use your draft as a launching pad. Let everyone who will be involved with it have their say, and be prepared to make some minor modifications to get buy-in from as many people as possible.
  7. Educate everybody! Start a campaign to explain the rationale and details of your CPG to everyone: physicians, nurses, techs, etc. Give educational presentations. You don’t want the eventual implementation to surprise anyone. Your colleagues don’t like surprises and will be less likely to follow along.
  8. Roll it out. Create processes and a timeline to roll it out. Give everyone several months to get used to it.
  9. Now monitor it! It makes no sense to implement something that no one follows. Create a monitoring system using your PI program. Include it in your reports or dashboards so providers can see how they are doing. And if you really want participation, let providers see how they are doing compared to their colleagues. Everyone wants to be the top dog.

Some sample CPGs:

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Video: How To Reduce An Ankle Dislocation

Here’s another fun video. It’s directed to emergency physicians and orthopedic surgeons who have to manage ankle dislocations. It will show you the following:

  • Types of ankle dislocation
  • Reduction
  • Splinting
  • The Quigley maneuver
  • How to apply the Sugartong splint
  • Lots of practical tips!

The video was broadcast at a previous Trauma Education: The Next Generation conference, and features Sarah Anderson MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Regions Hospital.

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