Measuring Injury Severity: Time for a Change

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Abstract

Background

The Injury Severity Score (ISS) does not take into account multiple injuries in the same body region, whereas a New ISS (NISS) may provide a more accurate measure of trauma severity by considering the patient's three greatest injuries regardless of body region. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the ISS and NISS in patients with blunt trauma.

Methods

Consecutive individuals treated from January of 1992 to September of 1996 at one institution were included if they had sustained blunt trauma and satisfied triage standards (n = 2,328). For each patient, we computed the ISS and the NISS to determine how often the two scores were identical or discrepant. Discrepant cases were then further analyzed using receiver operating characteristic curves to determine which score better predicted short-term mortality.

Results

The mean ISS was 25 +/- 13, and the mean NISS was 33 +/- 18. The two predictive scores were identical in 32% of patients and discrepant in 68% of patients. Patients with identical scores had a lower mortality rate than patients with discrepant scores (10% vs. 13%; p < 0.02). In patients with discrepant scores, the area under the receiver operating characteristic curves was greater for the NISS than the ISS (0.852 vs. 0.799; p < 0.001), and greater amounts of discrepancy were associated with increasing rates of mortality (p < 0.001).

Conclusions

The NISS often increases the apparent severity of injury and provides a more accurate prediction of short-term mortality. The benefit associated with using the NISS rather than the ISS must be weighed against the disadvantages of changing a scoring system and the potential for still greater improvements.

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