Should teens go to pediatric or adult trauma centers?
Adolescents treated at pediatric trauma centers fare better than those treated at adult or mixed facilities, according to a new report, but the researchers stop short of recommending that all adolescents be taken to pediatric facilities for their injuries.
Randall Burd, MD, PhD, chief of trauma and burn surgery at Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC, and one of the authors of the study, says more research is needed to determine if the lower mortality rates of pediatric trauma centers are the result of management practices or differences in the patient population.
“Our study shows that the mortality is lower for injured adolescents treated at pediatric compared to adult trauma centers,” Burd says. “Similar to other diseases treated by both pediatricians and adult providers, this finding raises the possibility that expertise and resources available at pediatric hospitals may have advantages for treating injured patients even as they become young adults.”
The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, sought to determine whether children treated in pediatric trauma centers fare better than those treated in adult facilities, and found that more adolescents who were treated in adult or mixed trauma centers died when compared with those treated in strictly pediatric centers.
Trauma is the top cause of death and injury in adolescents, with 39.5% of deaths in individuals aged 10 to 24 years stemming from unintentional injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although younger children in particular require specialized pediatric care, the perceived necessity of pediatric care decreases as children age into adolescence, the researchers say. For this reason, and the fact that resources of pediatric trauma centers are so scarce, adolescents are often taken to adult or mixed trauma centers for treatment. Additionally, there has been little research about the ideal cutoff age for treating adolescents in adult or mixed trauma centers over pediatric centers.
Researchers analyzed data from Level I and Level II trauma centers participating in the 2010 National Trauma Data Bank, and focused on mortality in patients aged 15 to 19 years who were treated for blunt or penetrating injuries.
Of the nearly 30,000 cases reviewed, 68.9% were treated at adult trauma centers; 25.6% were treated at mixed trauma centers; and just 5.5% were treated at pediatric trauma centers.
There were some differences in injury types, with the majority (91.4%) of injuries at pediatric trauma centers being blunt rather than penetrating in nature compared with those treated at adult trauma centers (80.4%) or mixed trauma centers (84.6%).
There was no significant difference in outcomes for adolescents treated in Level I (63.3%) compared with Level II (36.7%) trauma centers, although treatment at Level I trauma centers was more common for those treated in mixed trauma centers (81.9%) compared with pediatric trauma centers (76.1%). Only 55.3% of adolescents treated in adult trauma centers were treated in Level I facilities.