Inefficacy of standard vital signs for predicting mortality and the need for prehospital life-saving interventions in blunt trauma patients transported via helicopter: A repeated call for new measures

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The aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy of traditional vital signs for predicting mortality and the need for prehospital lifesaving interventions (LSIs) in blunt trauma patients requiring helicopter transport to a Level I trauma center. Our hypothesis was that standard vital signs are not sufficient for identifying or determining treatment for those patients most at risk.


This study involved prehospital trauma patients suffering from blunt trauma (motor vehicle/cycle collision) and transported from the point of injury via helicopter. Means and standard deviations for vital signs and Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) scores were obtained for non-LSI versus LSI and survivor versus nonsurvivor patient groups and then compared using Wilcoxon statistical tests. Variables with statistically significant differences between patient groups were then used to develop multivariate logistic regression models for predicting mortality and/or the need for prehospital LSIs. Receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curves were also obtained to compare these models.


A final cohort of 195 patients was included in the analysis. Thirty (15%) patients received a total of 39 prehospital LSIs. Of these, 12 (40%) died. In total, 33 (17%) patients died. Of these, 21 (74%) did not receive prehospital LSIs. Model variables were field heart rate, lowest systolic blood pressure, shock index, pulse pressure, and GCS components. Using vital signs alone, ROC curves demonstrated poor prediction of LSI needs, mortality, and nonsurvivors who did not receive LSIs (area under the curve [AUC], AUCs: 0.72, 0.65, and 0.61). When using both vital signs and GCS, ROC curves still demonstrated poor prediction of nonsurvivors overall and nonsurvivors who did not receive LSIs (AUCs: 0.67, 0.74).


The major implication of this study was that traditional vital signs cannot identify or determine treatment for many prehospital blunt trauma patients who are at great risk. This study reiterated the need for new measures to improve blunt trauma triage and prehospital care.


Therapeutic/care management, level IV.

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