Military and civilian trauma experts initiated a collaborative effort to develop an integrated learning trauma system to reduce preventable morbidity and mortality. Because the Department of Defense does not currently have recommended guidelines and standard operating procedures to perform military preventable death reviews in a consistent manner, these performance improvement processes must be developed.Objectives
To compare military and civilian preventable death determination methods to understand the existing best practices for evaluating preventable death.Evidence Review
This systematic review followed the PRISMA reporting guidelines. English-language articles were searched from inception to February 15, 2017, using the following databases: MEDLINE (Ovid), Evidence-Based Medicine Reviews (Ovid), PubMed, CINAHL, and Google Scholar. Articles were initially screened for eligibility and excluded based on predetermined criteria. Articles reviewing only prehospital deaths, only inhospital deaths, or both were eligible for inclusion. Information on study characteristics was independently abstracted by 2 investigators. Reported are methodological factors affecting the reliability of preventable death studies and the preventable death rate, defined as the number of potentially preventable deaths divided by the total number of deaths within a specific patient population.Findings
Fifty studies (8 military and 42 civilian) met the inclusion criteria. In total, 1598 of 6500 military deaths reviewed and 3346 of 19 108 civilian deaths reviewed were classified as potentially preventable. Among military studies, the preventable death rate ranged from 3.1% to 51.4%. Among civilian studies, the preventable death rate ranged from 2.5% to 85.3%. The high level of methodological heterogeneity regarding factors, such as preventable death definitions, review process, and determination criteria, hinders a meaningful quantitative comparison of preventable death rates.Conclusions and Relevance
The reliability of military and civilian preventable death studies is hindered by inconsistent definitions, incompatible criteria, and the overall heterogeneity in study methods. The complexity, inconsistency, and unpredictability of combat require unique considerations to perform a methodologically sound combat-related preventable death review. As the Department of Defense begins the process of developing recommended guidelines and standard operating procedures for performing military preventable death reviews, consideration must be given to the factors known to increase the risk of bias and poor reliability.