To compare the effect of staffing with general surgeons vs trauma specialists on patient outcome at a trauma center.
The care of injured patients at a level I urban trauma center serving a population of 2.5 million was the responsibility of 12 surgeons (10 general surgeons and 2 trauma specialists) between January 1 and June 30, 1996 (group 1). Between July 1 and December 31, 1996 (group 2), trauma was the responsibility solely of 4 trauma specialists. An additional comparison was made with those patients in group 1 who were admitted to the general surgeons (group 1A). The outcomes and quality of care for these periods, as determined by the quality assurance screens, were retrospectively analyzed and compared.
Urban, tertiary care, level I trauma center.
Each trauma and burn patient admitted during the study periods is included in this study. Upon the patient's discharge from the hospital, specially trained nurses completed a review of the patient's stay and entered it into the TraumaOne database (Lancet Technology Inc, Cambridge, Mass). There were 693 trauma patients in group 1 (472 in group 1A) and 734 patients in group 2.
Main Outcome Measures
Mortality, length of stay, and 16 quality assurance screens were quantified and compared using χ2 analyses and t tests.
The age and sex of the 2 groups were similar. The mortality rate was 6.2% (43/693) in group 1, 6.1% (29/472) in group 1A, and 6.5% (48/734) in group 2 (P=.80 and P =.78, respectively). When stratified by injury severity score (ISS), lengths of stay were statistically similar, except for patients with an ISS of 0 to 7. Patients with an ISS of 0 to 7 in groups 1 and 1A stayed a mean of 2.6 days, compared with 3.2 days for group 2 (P=.01 and P =.02, respectively). The results of quality assurance screens (missed injury, wound infection, readmission, and 13 others) were similar in the 2 groups.
Transitions in staffing afforded the opportunity to examine patient outcomes by surgeon specialization and frequency of call. In our sample, 12 well-trained surgeons taking call less frequently managed a trauma service as efficiently as a group of 4 trauma specialists, without any differences in morbidity and mortality.