This happens many times every day. A patient falls and may have hit her head, but there is no change from her normal mental status. To complicate matter, she takes an anticoagulant.
There are no clear signs of serious trauma. so should we automatically go to the trauma center?
What can help us decide?
Patients were not excluded because of dementia, aphasia, or any cognitive or neurologic deficit that was determined by the physician caring for the patient to be the patient’s baseline.
The conclusion of the study is useful, but I would reverse the emphasis.
Signs of trauma to the head and face or loss of consciousness is predictive of ICI.
An absence of Signs of trauma to the head and face or loss of consciousness is predictive of an absence of ICI (IntraCranial Injury).
The study is not perfect, for example it is not clear what is included in the signs of trauma to the head, but it does strongly suggest that these patients should not be diverted to a trauma center just for anticoagulants, or for dementia, or for being old.
A patient was determined to have no significant acute head injury (1) if he/she had a negative result on head CT performed, (2) if the patient was admitted to the hospital and had no sequelae at discharge, (3) if review of his/her medical record revealed repeat hospital visits unrelated to falls with no sequelae or concerns related to the index visit,or (4) if the patient had no concerns at 30 days postinjury in telephone follow-up.
These clearly are not the patients who needed to be trauma alerts.
Anticoagulants did not matter. While a trend is probably just statistical noise, the trend for anticoagulants other than aspirin was toward less likelihood of ICI.
While Signs of trauma to the head and face increased the likelihood of ICI, History of hitting head had a trend toward less likelihood of ICI.
The sensitivity and specificity for signs of trauma to the face/head or loss of consciousness were 92.6% (74.2-98.7) and 40.2% (36.8-43.8), respectively. The positive predictive value in this“low-acuity”cohort was 5.2% (3.4-7.6), and the negative predictive value was 99.4% (97.4-99.9).
Should we start to write protocols based on this, or triage patients based on this? We should find out more, but patients with dementia and no change in mental status probably should not be triaged differently from patients with no change in mental status who just happen to not have dementia.
We already knew that, but we did not have evidence to support that bit of common sense.
A recent prospective study concluded that 26% of elderly patients presenting to the ED exhibited evidence of cognitive impairment.
If a quarter of elderly patients have cognitive impairment, this can have a big effect on EMS.
The following figure that confused me. The percentages in red on the far right are the percentages of each category. That is what I would want to know, when looking at the data. The totals are not explained. Maybe someone will see what I am missing. How did 799 patients become 783, or did they become 783, and what happened to the other 16 patients if the number is now 783?
Regardless of my confusion with the figure above, this paper is one more reason for me to feel comfortable transporting patients with dementia and no obvious head injury (and no loss of consciousness) to the local hospital.
 Characteristics of elderly fall patients with baseline mental status: high-risk features for intracranial injury.
Hamden K, Agresti D, Jeanmonod R, Woods D, Reiter M, Jeanmonod D.
Am J Emerg Med. 2014 May 12. pii: S0735-6757(14)00318-0. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2014.04.051. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 24929771 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]
Hamden K, Agresti D, Jeanmonod R, Woods D, Reiter M, & Jeanmonod D (2014). Characteristics of elderly fall patients with baseline mental status: high-risk features for intracranial injury. The American journal of emergency medicine PMID: 24929771