The decline of elective operating at major trauma centres

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Major trauma is a leading cause of death in those aged under 40 years. In order to improve the care for multiply injured patients, the major trauma network was activated in April 2012 in England. Its goal was to link all district hospitals to major trauma centres (MTCs) and allow for rapid transfer of patients. Anecdotally, this has affected elective orthopaedic operating at MTCs. The aim of this study was to compare the number of lower limb arthroplasty procedures performed before and after the establishment of the trauma network.


Data on hip and knee arthroplasties in England during the two years prior to and the two years following the introduction of the trauma network were obtained from the National Joint Registry. These were broken down by type of unit (MTCs vs non-MTCs). Differences between the number of hip and knee arthroplasties undertaken in the two time periods were analysed. The chi-squared test was used to assess statistical significance.


The total number of lower limb arthroplasties increased after the activation of the trauma network by 5.5% (from 211,453 to 223,119). When stratifying the data by type of unit, this increasing trend was present for non-MTCs; however, in MTCs, a reduction occurred: the number reduced by 13.6% (from 13,492 to 11,657). This reversal of trend was seen in both hip and knee procedures independently (both p<0.01).


The introduction of the trauma network has led to a reduction in the total number of lower limb arthroplasty procedures performed in MTCs. Various reasons have been postulated for this but its impact on surgical training and hospital finances must be scrutinised in future research.

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