To systematically review the literature on quality indicators (QIs) for evaluating trauma care, identify QIs, map their definitions, and examine the evidence base in support of the QIs.
We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from the earliest available date through January 14, 2009. To increase the sensitivity of the search, we also searched the grey literature and select journals by hand, reviewed reference lists to identify additional studies, and contacted experts in the field.
Study Selection and Data Extraction
We selected all articles that identified or proposed 1 or more QIs to evaluate the quality of care delivered to patients with major traumatic injuries. Minimum inclusion criteria were a description of 1 or more QIs designed to evaluate patients with major traumatic injuries (defined as multisystem injuries resulting in hospitalization or death) and focused on prehospital care, hospital care, posthospital care, or secondary injury prevention.
The literature search identified 6869 citations. Review of abstracts led to the retrieval of 538 full-text articles for assessment, of which 192 articles were selected for review. Of these, 128 (66.7%) articles were original research, predominantly trauma database case series (57 [29.7%]) and cohort studies (55 [28.6%]), whereas 37 (19.3%) were narrative reviews and 8 (4.2%) were guidelines. A total of 1572 QIs in trauma care were identified and classified into 8 categories: non-American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (ACS-COT) audit filters (42.0%), ACS-COT audit filters (19.1%), patient safety indicators (13.2%), trauma center/system criteria (10.2%), indicators measuring or benchmarking outcomes of care (7.4%), peer review (5.5%), general audit measures (1.8%), and guideline availability or adherence (0.8%). Measures of prehospital and hospital processes (60.4%) and outcomes (22.8%) were the most common QIs identified. Posthospital and secondary injury prevention QIs accounted for less than 5% of QIs.
Many QIs for evaluating the quality of trauma care have been proposed, but the evidence to support these indicators is not strong. Practical recommendations to select QIs to measure the quality of trauma care will require systematic reviews of identified candidate indicators and empirical studies to fill the knowledge gaps for postacute QIs.