Potentially preventable trauma deaths: A retrospective review

  • Ben Beck
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: Emergency and Trauma Research Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, 553 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne, Victoria, 3004 Australia.
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
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  • Karen Smith
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Centre for Research and Evaluation, Ambulance Victoria, Victoria, Australia

    Department of Community Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
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  • Eric Mercier
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Faculty of Medicine, Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
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  • Stephen Bernard
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Centre for Research and Evaluation, Ambulance Victoria, Victoria, Australia

    The Intensive Care Unit, The Alfred Hospital
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  • Colin Jones
    Affiliations
    Ambulance Victoria, Victoria, Australia
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  • Ben Meadley
    Affiliations
    Department of Community Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Ambulance Victoria, Victoria, Australia
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  • Toby St Clair
    Affiliations
    Department of Community Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Ambulance Victoria, Victoria, Australia
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  • Paul A. Jennings
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Department of Community Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Ambulance Victoria, Victoria, Australia

    Emergency and Trauma Centre, The Alfred, Victoria, Australia
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  • Ziad Nehme
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Centre for Research and Evaluation, Ambulance Victoria, Victoria, Australia

    Department of Community Emergency Health and Paramedic Practice, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Ambulance Victoria, Victoria, Australia
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  • Michael Burke
    Affiliations
    Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, Victoria, Australia
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  • Richard Bassed
    Affiliations
    Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, Victoria, Australia

    Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
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  • Mark Fitzgerald
    Affiliations
    Trauma Service, The Alfred, Victoria, Australia

    National Trauma Research Institute, Victoria, Australia
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  • Rodney Judson
    Affiliations
    General Surgery, The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Victoria, Australia

    Department of Surgery, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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  • Warwick Teague
    Affiliations
    Trauma Service, The Royal Children’s Hospital, Victoria, Australia

    Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    Surgical Research Group, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Victoria, Australia
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  • Biswadev Mitra
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    National Trauma Research Institute, Victoria, Australia

    Emergency and Trauma Centre, The Alfred, Victoria, Australia
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  • Joseph Mathew
    Affiliations
    Trauma Service, The Alfred, Victoria, Australia

    National Trauma Research Institute, Victoria, Australia

    Emergency and Trauma Centre, The Alfred, Victoria, Australia
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  • Andrew Buck
    Affiliations
    Emergency Department, Royal Darwin Hospital, Northern Territory, Australia
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  • Dinesh Varma
    Affiliations
    Department of Surgery, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    Radiology, The Alfred, Victoria, Australia
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  • Belinda Gabbe
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Health Data Research UK, Swansea University Medical School, Swansea University, UK
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  • Janet Bray
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    Prehospital, Resuscitation and Emergency Care Research Unit (PRECRU), School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
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  • Susan McLellan
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
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  • Jane Ford
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
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  • Josine Siedenburg
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia
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  • Peter Cameron
    Affiliations
    Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

    National Trauma Research Institute, Victoria, Australia

    Emergency and Trauma Centre, The Alfred, Victoria, Australia
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Open AccessPublished:March 07, 2019DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.injury.2019.03.003

      Highlights

      • An expert panel review methodology was used to identify the rate of preventable and potentially preventable trauma deaths.
      • Potentially preventable or preventable deaths represented 7% of cases that had attempted resuscitation from paramedics.
      • Identifying situations where the system of care was considered suboptimal provides opportunities to improve trauma systems.

      Abstract

      Background

      Reviewing prehospital trauma deaths provides an opportunity to identify system improvements that may reduce trauma mortality. The objective of this study was to identify the number and rate of potentially preventable trauma deaths through expert panel reviews of prehospital and early in-hospital trauma deaths.

      Methods

      We conducted a retrospective review of prehospital and early in-hospital (<24 h) trauma deaths following a traumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest that were attended by Ambulance Victoria (AV) in the state of Victoria, Australia, between 2008 and 2014. Expert panels were used to review cases that had resuscitation attempted by paramedics and underwent a full autopsy. Patients with a mechanism of hanging, drowning or those with anatomical injuries deemed to be unsurvivable were excluded.

      Results

      Of the 1183 cases that underwent full autopsies, resuscitation was attempted by paramedics in 336 (28%) cases. Of these, 113 cases (34%) were deemed to have potentially survivable injuries and underwent expert panel review. There were 90 (80%) deaths that were not preventable, 19 (17%) potentially preventable deaths and 4 (3%) preventable deaths. Potentially preventable or preventable deaths represented 20% of those cases that underwent review and 7% of cases that had attempted resuscitation.

      Conclusions

      The number of potentially preventable or preventable trauma deaths in the pre-hospital and early in-hospital resuscitation phase was low. Specific circumstances were identified in which the trauma system could be further improved.

      Keywords

      Introduction

      Regionalised trauma systems aim to ensure that severely injured patients are transported to trauma centres with appropriate specialist staff and equipment in a timely fashion, with the objective of reducing preventable deaths and disability. These systems have been demonstrated to reduce trauma mortality and morbidity globally. [
      • Cameron P.A.
      • Gabbe B.J.
      • Cooper D.J.
      • Walker T.
      • Judson R.
      • McNeil J.
      A statewide system of trauma care in Victoria: effect on patient survival.
      ,
      • Gabbe B.J.
      • Simpson P.M.
      • Sutherland A.M.
      • et al.
      Improved functional outcomes for major trauma patients in a regionalized, inclusive trauma system.
      ,
      • MacKenzie E.J.
      • Rivara F.P.
      • Jurkovich G.J.
      • et al.
      A national evaluation of the effect of trauma-center care on mortality.
      ,
      • Nathens A.B.
      • Jurkovich G.J.
      • Cummings P.
      • Rivara F.P.
      • Maier R.V.
      The effect of organized systems of trauma care on motor vehicle crash mortality.
      ]
      Reviewing preventable trauma deaths, a method first used in the 1970s, has been a mechanism used to examine quality of care, outcomes and evaluate the implementation of trauma systems [
      • Detmer D.E.
      • Moylan J.A.
      • Rose J.
      • Schulz R.
      • Wallace R.
      • Daly R.
      Regional categorization and quality of care in major trauma.
      ,
      • Moylan J.A.
      • Detmer D.E.
      • Rose J.
      • Schulz R.
      Evaluation of the quality of hospital care for major trauma.
      ,
      • West J.G.
      • Cales R.H.
      • Gazzaniga A.B.
      Impact of regionalization: the Orange County experience.
      ]. In Victoria, Australia, the work of the Consultative Committee of Road Traffic Fatalities, led by McDermott et al. [
      • McDermott F.T.
      • Cooper G.J.
      • Hogan P.L.
      • Cordner S.M.
      • Tremayne A.B.
      Evaluation of the prehospital management of road traffic fatalities in Victoria, Australia.
      ] was instrumental in the introduction of the Victorian State Trauma System; a regionalised trauma system that has been demonstrated to significantly improve outcomes for major trauma patients [
      • Cameron P.A.
      • Gabbe B.J.
      • Cooper D.J.
      • Walker T.
      • Judson R.
      • McNeil J.
      A statewide system of trauma care in Victoria: effect on patient survival.
      ,
      • Gabbe B.J.
      • Simpson P.M.
      • Sutherland A.M.
      • et al.
      Improved functional outcomes for major trauma patients in a regionalized, inclusive trauma system.
      ].
      The majority of trauma deaths occur in the prehospital setting [
      • Beck B.
      • Bray J.E.
      • Cameron P.
      • et al.
      Resuscitation attempts and duration in traumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
      ,
      • Morrison J.J.
      • Yapp L.Z.
      • Beattie A.
      • et al.
      The epidemiology of Scottish trauma: a comparison of pre-hospital and in-hospital deaths, 2000 to 2011.
      ]. Yet, these deaths have not been subject to the same scrutiny as in-hospital deaths. Reviewing prehospital trauma deaths provides an opportunity to examine the entire system of care provided to trauma patients, not limited to those that survive to hospital, as is common in many reviews of trauma deaths [
      • Gruen R.L.
      • Jurkovich G.J.
      • McIntyre L.K.
      • Foy H.M.
      • Maier R.V.
      Patterns of errors contributing to trauma mortality: lessons learned from 2594 deaths.
      ,
      • Teixeira P.G.
      • Inaba K.
      • Hadjizacharia P.
      • et al.
      Preventable or potentially preventable mortality at a mature trauma center.
      ]. Reviews of prehospital deaths can inform the optimisation of the system of care provided to trauma patients, including improvements to prehospital coordination, clinical care, and the role of novel technologies and clinical interventions [
      • Beck B.
      • Smith K.
      • Mercier E.
      • Cameron P.
      Clinical review of prehospital trauma deaths - the missing piece of the puzzle.
      ].
      The use of multidisciplinary expert panel reviews is considered the most robust approach to reviewing potentially preventable trauma deaths [
      • Chiara O.
      • Cimbanassi S.
      • Pitidis A.
      • Vesconi S.
      Preventable trauma deaths: from panel review to population based-studies.
      ,
      • Janak J.C.
      • Sosnov J.A.
      • Bares J.M.
      • et al.
      Comparison of military and civilian methods for determining potentially preventable deaths: a systematic review.
      ]. Despite this, contemporary expert panel reviews of prehospital trauma deaths are rare. Studies from Kleber et al. in Berlin [
      • Kleber C.
      • Giesecke M.
      • Tsokos M.
      • Haas N.
      • Buschmann C.
      Trauma-related preventable deaths in Berlin 2010: need to change prehospital management strategies and trauma management education.
      ] and Girard et al. in northern France [
      • Girard E.
      • Jegousso Q.
      • Boussat B.
      • et al.
      Preventable deaths in a French regional trauma system: a six-year analysis of severe trauma mortality.
      ] are the exceptions. However, given that Australian data on preventable deaths is more than a decade old [
      • McDermott F.T.
      • Cooper G.J.
      • Hogan P.L.
      • Cordner S.M.
      • Tremayne A.B.
      Evaluation of the prehospital management of road traffic fatalities in Victoria, Australia.
      ,
      • Ashour A.
      • Cameron P.
      • Bernard S.
      • Fitzgerald M.
      • Smith K.
      • Walker T.
      Could bystander first‐aid prevent trauma deaths at the scene of injury?.
      ,
      • Ryan M.
      • Stella J.
      • Chiu H.
      • Ragg M.
      Injury patterns and preventability in prehospital motor vehicle crash fatalities in Victoria.
      ], there is a need to provide new evidence on whether a proportion of trauma deaths could have been prevented and what system improvements should be implemented to reduce trauma mortality. Therefore, the primary aim of this study was to identify the number and rate of preventable and potentially preventable trauma deaths and determine the components of current clinical pathways where best evidence care was not delivered. A secondary aim was to identify opportunities to improve the system of care provided to severely injured trauma patients.

      Methods

       Study design

      We performed a retrospective review of prehospital trauma deaths and early in-hospital (<24 h) trauma deaths following a traumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) that were attended by Ambulance Victoria (AV) between 2008 and 2014. Patients with a mechanism of hanging or drowning were excluded. The study protocol has been published previously [
      • Mercier E.
      • Cameron P.A.
      • Smith K.
      • Beck B.
      Prehospital trauma death review in the State of Victoria, australia: a study protocol.
      ] and additional methodological details are provided in the Supplementary Material.

       Setting

      The study was conducted in the State of Victoria, Australia (population of 5.6 million people). AV is the sole provider of emergency medical service (EMS) in the state. AV deliver a three-tiered EMS system, with Advanced Life Support Paramedics (ALS), Intensive Care Paramedics (ICP) and first responders with basic life support (BLS) skills who respond in select areas of Victoria.

       Data sources

      Prehospital and early in-hospital (<24 h) trauma deaths were identified using the Victorian Ambulance Cardiac Arrest Registry (VACAR), a population-based registry of all OHCA events attended by AV [
      • Nehme Z.
      • Bernard S.
      • Cameron P.
      • et al.
      Using a cardiac arrest registry to measure the quality of emergency medical service care.
      ]. All deaths attended by paramedics are collected in VACAR and all deaths are considered to have had an OHCA. These data were linked with coronial data (including the autopsy report, police report and forensic toxicology report) from the National Coronial Information System [
      • Mercier E.
      • Cameron P.A.
      • Smith K.
      • Beck B.
      Prehospital trauma death review in the State of Victoria, australia: a study protocol.
      ]. For patients that survived to hospital, data were linked with the Victorian State Trauma Registry [
      • Cameron P.A.
      • Finch C.F.
      • Gabbe B.J.
      • Collins L.J.
      • Smith K.L.
      • McNeil J.J.
      Developing Australia’s first statewide trauma registry: what are the lessons?.
      ].

       Inclusion criteria

      Cases were included for detailed review if they were successfully linked, had attempted resuscitation by paramedics, underwent a full autopsy and the autopsy was electronically available. Criteria for withholding or ceasing resuscitation attempts have previously been described [
      • Beck B.
      • Bray J.E.
      • Cameron P.
      • et al.
      Resuscitation attempts and duration in traumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
      ]. In short, paramedics can withhold resuscitation when there is clear evidence of prolonged cardiac arrest or when injuries are incompatible with life.

       Review process

      A two phase review process was used [
      • Mercier E.
      • Cameron P.A.
      • Smith K.
      • Beck B.
      Prehospital trauma death review in the State of Victoria, australia: a study protocol.
      ].

       Phase 1: survivability assessment

      Included cases underwent a detailed clinical review to determine whether the anatomical injuries were ‘survivable’; that is, cases in which the anatomical injuries were potentially survivable in ideal situations, but the patient died (Supplementary Material). [
      • Mercier E.
      • Cameron P.A.
      • Smith K.
      • Beck B.
      Prehospital trauma death review in the State of Victoria, australia: a study protocol.
      ]

       Phase 2: expert panel reviews

      In cases that were deemed to be ‘survivable’, multidisciplinary panels were used to identify components of the system of care where current best evidence care was not delivered. Four sub-panels were utilised to review these cases and comprised at least the following:
      • 1 intensive care paramedic
      • 1 emergency physician or trauma surgeon
      • 1 other (e.g. ALS paramedic, nurse, forensic pathologist, injury epidemiologist)
      The review was conducted under the framework of the clinical practice that was relevant at the time of the death. Two weeks prior to the review, panellists were provided with the prehospital patient care records for each of the attending ambulance crews (and in-hospital records, where appropriate), the police report, toxicology data and the full autopsy. Specific areas for improvement were identified a priori (Supplementary Material) [
      • Mercier E.
      • Cameron P.A.
      • Smith K.
      • Beck B.
      Prehospital trauma death review in the State of Victoria, australia: a study protocol.
      ]. More than one area for improvement could be assigned to each case.

       Preventability assessment

      Preventability was classified using classifications from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Guidelines for Trauma Quality Improvement Programs [
      • World Health Organization
      Guidelines for trauma quality improvement programmes.
      ], Shackford et al. [
      • Shackford S.R.
      • Hollingsworth-fridlund P.
      • Mcardle M.
      • Eastman A.
      Assuring quality in a trauma system-the medical audit committee: composition, cost, and results.
      ] McKenzie et al. [
      • MacKenzie E.J.
      • Steinwachs D.M.
      • Bone L.R.
      • Floccare D.J.
      • Ramzy A.I.
      • Group P.D.S.
      Inter-rater reliability of preventable death judgments.
      ] Vioque et al. [
      • Vioque S.M.
      • Kim P.K.
      • McMaster J.
      • et al.
      Classifying errors in preventable and potentially preventable trauma deaths: a 9-year review using the Joint Commission’s standardized methodology.
      ] and Oliver & Walter [
      • Oliver G.J.
      • Walter D.P.
      A call for consensus on methodology and terminology to improve comparability in the study of preventable prehospital trauma deaths: a systematic literature review.
      ] as a guide, as follows:
      • Not preventable
        • System provided appropriate and timely care
        • Evaluation and management was appropriate according to relevant clinical guidelines
      • Potentially preventable
        • System generally provided appropriate and timely care, although potential for improvement
        • Evaluation and management generally appropriate
        • Some deviations from standard of care that may, directly or indirectly, have been implicated in the patient’s death
      • Preventable
        • Delivery of care was suboptimal
        • Avoidable error is judged to have directly caused the final outcome
      Where 100% agreement on preventability could not be achieved during the expert panel reviews, cases were taken to a wider panel review. This wider panel review included three intensive care paramedics, five emergency physicians / trauma surgeons and one forensic pathologist.

       Novel interventions

      In addition to reviewing trauma deaths with respect to clinical practice that was relevant at the time of the death, expert panellists were also asked to consider the role of interventions that were or are novel in the context of prehospital care in the Victorian State Trauma System. A list of interventions were defined a priori by a team of highly-experienced prehospital and in-hospital trauma clinicians (Supplementary Material). More than one intervention could be assigned to each death.

       Analysis

      All injuries were coded using the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) 2005 (2008 update) [
      • Association for the advancement of automotive medicine
      Abbreviated injury scale 2005 - update 2008.
      ] and the Injury Severity Score (ISS) calculated. Coding was conducted by clinical coders who were accredited in AIS coding.
      To assess the reliability of preventability between panels, 20 cases were randomly allocated to be independently reviewed by two panels. Comparisons between groups were made using the Wilcoxon rank-sum test for non-normally distributed continuous variables and the chi-square test or Fisher’s exact test for categorical variables. Data analysis was performed using Stata (Version 14.2, StataCorp, College Station, TX). A p-value <0.05 was considered statistically significant.

       Ethics committee approval

      The present study was approved by the Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) (CF/16/272) and the Monash University HREC (CF16/532 – 2016000259).

      Results

      Over the 7 year study period, there were 2752 prehospital and early in-hospital deaths following traumatic OHCA. Of these, 2612 (95%) were successfully linked to NCIS data. Of the linked cases, 1429 (55%) were excluded due to having external-only examinations (n = 1156; 44%) or unavailable autopsy results (n = 273; 11%). Differences in the age, sex, intent, location and mechanism of injury were observed between deaths with a full autopsy and deaths with an external-only examination or where the autopsy result was not available (Supplementary Material). Of the 1183 (45%) cases that had full autopsies, resuscitation was attempted in 336 (28%) cases (Fig. 1).
      Following detailed review of the autopsy results, 223 (66%) were excluded from the expert panel reviews due to having either unsurvivable anatomical injuries (n = 187; 56%), being a primary medical event (n = 31; 9%) or the prehospital patient care record being unavailable (n = 5; 1%). Thus, 113 cases (34%) were deemed to have potentially survivable anatomical injuries and underwent expert panel review (Fig. 1). Comparisons between cases that underwent review and cases excluded are presented in Table 1.
      Table 1Comparisons between cases that underwent review and those cases that were excluded. Cases that did not have attempted resuscitation from paramedics or did not undergo a full autopsy were excluded from these comparisons.
      Cases that underwent reviewCases excludedp-value
      N113223
      Age (years); median (IQR)46.0 (32.0, 63.0)40.0 (25.0, 60.0)0.047
      Sex0.44
       Male85 (75.2%)176 (78.9%)
       Female28 (24.8%)47 (21.1%)
      Intent0.044
       Unintentional83 (74.1%)147 (73.5%)
       Intentional Self-Harm3 (2.7%)17 (8.5%)
       Assault23 (20.5%)25 (12.5%)
       Other3 (2.7%)11 (5.5%)
      Location0.70
       Highway, Freeway, Street or Road60 (53.1%)136 (61.0%)
       Home28 (24.8%)46 (20.6%)
       Farm6 (5.3%)8 (3.6%)
       Industrial Or Construction Area4 (3.5%)8 (3.6%)
       Other15 (13.3%)25 (11.2%)
      Trauma type0.014
       Blunt82 (73.2%)163 (80.7%)
       Penetrating24 (21.4%)31 (15.3%)
       Thermal Mechanism2 (1.8%)3 (1.5%)
       Threat To Breathing4 (3.6%)0 (0.0%)
       Other0 (0.0%)5 (2.5%)
      Mechanism of injury0.045
       Transport Injury Event64 (57.1%)127 (62.9%)
       Fall (any)5 (4.5%)20 (9.9%)
       Crushing/ Threat to Breathing11 (9.8%)5 (2.5%)
       Contact with Person4 (3.6%)4 (2.0%)
       Penetrating: stabbing16 (14.3%)21 (10.4%)
       Penetrating: shot by firearm5 (4.5%)9 (4.5%)
       Penetrating: scratching, cutting2 (1.8%)1 (0.5%)
       Thermal Mechanism2 (1.8%)3 (1.5%)
       Other3 (2.7%)12 (5.9%)
      Injury Severity Score; median (IQR)27 (19, 41)38 (25, 75)<0.001
      Missing data: intent - n=24 (7%); mechanism of injury - n=22 (7%).

       Potentially preventable or preventable deaths

      Of the 113 cases that underwent expert panel review, consensus was reached by the sub-panels in 111 cases (98%). Two cases were taken to wider-panel review where a final decision was reached. Of the 113 cases, there were 90 (80%) not preventable deaths, 19 (17%) potentially preventable deaths and 4 (3%) preventable deaths (Table 2). Potentially preventable or preventable deaths represented 20% of those cases that had potentially survivable anatomical injuries (23 of 113) and 7% of cases that had attempted resuscitation from paramedics (23 of 336). The proportion of cases that were potentially preventable or preventable deaths was similar between blunt and penetrating trauma, but were higher in metropolitan regions compared to rural regions (Table 2). The median ISS was lower in preventable deaths relative to potentially preventable or not preventable deaths (Table 2).
      Table 2Comparisons of preventability groups.
      Potentially preventablePreventableNot preventable
      N19490
      Age, years
       0–151 (5%)1 (25%)1 (1%)
       16–344 (21%)1 (25%)25 (28%)
       35–648 (42%)1 (25%)45 (50%)
       65 plus6 (32%)1 (25%)19 (21%)
      Trauma type
       Blunt14 (74%)3 (75%)65 (73%)
       Penetrating5 (26%)1 (25%)18 (20%)
       Other0 (0%)0 (0%)6 (7%)
      Region
       Metropolitan14 (74%)1 (25%)43 (48%)
       Rural5 (26%)3 (75%)47 (52%)
      Injury Severity Score; median (IQR)27 (22, 41)14 (10, 20)29 (19, 41)
      Missing data: trauma type - n=1 (1%).

       Inter-panel reliability

      Twenty cases were independently reviewed by two panels with agreement achieved in 19 of 20 cases.

       Areas for improvement

       Potentially preventable or preventable deaths

      Among all potentially preventable or preventable deaths, eight cases were identified to have areas for improvement in the response of the system: four cases had long response times and four cases had potential issues related to dispatch or recognition in the emergency call (Table 3). In the latter four cases, the traumatic cardiac arrest or severity of injuries was not recognised in the initial call, and the case was determined to have been under-triaged. There were six cases where areas for improvement in diagnosis by paramedics were identified, which were a combination of delayed recognition of trauma and severity of injury.
      Table 3Areas for improvement identified in the expert panel reviews, with results stratified by preventability groups.
      Potentially preventablePreventableNot preventable
      N19490
      System factors
       Long notification time (time from injury event to 000 call)100
       Long response time225
       Dispatch / recognition in the call400
       Other103
      Diagnostic factors
       Missed/incorrect diagnosis601
       Delayed diagnosis000
       Other000
      Treatment/management factors
       Delayed treatment101
       Incorrect procedure100
       Correct procedure, but with complication201
       Correct procedure, incorrectly performed201
       Procedure not performed334
       Equipment failure000
       Inaccurate prognosis402
       Excessive on-scene time410
       Triage error201
       Other501
      There were five cases in which the on-scene time was noted to be excessive. In all five cases, these were haemorrhaging patients where it was deemed immediate transport to definitive care for surgical management was the highest priority. There were four cases in which the injury was inappropriately deemed unsalvageable at scene resulting in resuscitation efforts being ceased prematurely.
      There were 20 cases where potential areas for improvement in the management of the patient were identified (Table 3). There were two cases in which the correct procedure was performed, but resulted in a complication, both of which related to ineffective needle pleural decompression with tension pneumothoraces observed on post-mortem. There were six cases in which it was deemed that a necessary procedure was not performed. In three of four preventable deaths, an absence of appropriate haemorrhage control was noted.

       Not preventable deaths

      Potential areas for improvement in the 90 cases where the deaths were deemed to be not preventable are summarised in Table 3. There were five cases that identified areas for improvement in the response of the system. All of these cases related to long response times; one of which one related to the incorrect provision of the scene address and one case in which there was a delay in activating helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS). There was one case that had areas for improvement in diagnosis. Specifically, a significant pelvic fracture was missed. Nine cases had areas for improvement in the management of the patient. Three cases had a necessary procedure that was not performed, including chest decompression, and pelvic and lower limb splinting. There were no cases in which the on-scene time was noted to be excessive. There were two cases in which early prognostication resulted in resuscitation efforts being ceased prematurely.

       Novel interventions

      Sixty-seven of the 113 (59%) cases that underwent review had novel interventions noted that may have improved outcomes. These interventions were or are novel in the context of prehospital care in the Victoria State Trauma System and are detailed in Table 4.
      Table 4Noted novel system-related and clinical interventions that may have improved outcomes. These were documented for all cases that underwent review (n = 113).
      Number of cases identified where novel intervention may have improved outcome
      System-related interventions
       Early notification system (e.g. automatic crash notification or automatic quad-bike rollover notification)4
       Video emergency call8
       Provision of GPS coordinates as part of emergency call2
       Improved protocol around trapped patients5
       Improved protocol for crushed patients2
      Rapid launch protocol for HEMS3
      Clinical interventions
       Prehospital point of care ultrasonography17
       Prehospital resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA)2
       Prehospital thoracotomy0
       Prehospital blood products (red cell concentrate / packed red bloods cells) a24
       Finger thoracostomy b17
       Arterial tourniquets4
       Novel methods of haemorrhage control (abdominal packing)2
       Remote decision-making support (telemedicine) for paramedics6
       Query the benefit of intubating a haemorrhagic/shocked patient, particularly in cases of penetrating chest trauma6
       Provide SAM pelvic binder to all crews c6
       Prioritise short on-scene times, particularly in penetrating trauma5
       Increased education on impact brain apnoea2
      Note: a) Intensive care flight paramedics have been able to administer blood products since 2011; b) currently in use by intensive care flight paramedics; c) this has already been addressed by Ambulance Victoria.

      Discussion

      In this detailed review of prehospital and early in-hospital trauma deaths following traumatic OHCA over a 7-year period, there were 23 cases identified that were potentially preventable or preventable. In a small number of patients, systems of care provided to the patient were considered suboptimal. The identification of these areas for improvement provide opportunities to make incremental improvements that may reduce trauma mortality.
      Our observed rate of potentially preventable or preventable deaths is lower than that previously reported. Excluding patients who died prior to the arrival of prehospital emergency physicians, Girard et al. [
      • Girard E.
      • Jegousso Q.
      • Boussat B.
      • et al.
      Preventable deaths in a French regional trauma system: a six-year analysis of severe trauma mortality.
      ] reported 21% of trauma deaths were considered potentially preventable or preventable in a region of northern France. Kleber et al. reported 15% of all trauma deaths (excluding deaths from strangulation, burns or drowning) were considered potentially preventable or preventable in Berlin, Germany. In our setting of Victoria, Australia, McDermott et al. previously noted that 67% of road traffic fatalities had errors that contributed to death [
      • McDermott F.T.
      • Cooper G.J.
      • Hogan P.L.
      • Cordner S.M.
      • Tremayne A.B.
      Evaluation of the prehospital management of road traffic fatalities in Victoria, Australia.
      ]. This rate significantly declined after the introduction of the Victorian State Trauma System [
      • McDermott F.T.
      • Cordner S.M.
      • Cooper D.J.
      • Winship V.C.
      • CCoRTFi Victoria
      Management deficiencies and death preventability of road traffic fatalities before and after a new trauma care system in Victoria, Australia.
      ] and this was reflected in reductions in risk-adjusted in-hospital mortality [
      • Cameron P.A.
      • Gabbe B.J.
      • Cooper D.J.
      • Walker T.
      • Judson R.
      • McNeil J.
      A statewide system of trauma care in Victoria: effect on patient survival.
      ]. The potentially preventable or preventable death rate in our study was substantially lower, demonstrating the effectiveness of our mature trauma system and the provision of high-quality prehospital care.
      We identified only a small number of specific circumstances in which the system of care provided to the patient was suboptimal. Preventable deaths studies are limited to focussing on only patients that die and therefore miss opportunities to identify situations in which system or clinical components have been effective. In the setting of a low rate of potentially preventable or preventable deaths, any suggested changes to trauma systems are made with the caveat of requiring further evaluation. None the less, our study highlights potential opportunities to make incremental improvements to trauma care.
      Twenty of 23 potentially preventable or preventable deaths had areas for improvement in the management of the patient. In our region, paramedics are typically exposed to traumatic OHCA once every 9.5 years [
      • Dyson K.
      • Bray J.
      • Smith K.
      • Bernard S.
      • Straney L.
      • Finn J.
      Paramedic exposure to out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is rare and declining in Victoria, Australia.
      ], and continued efforts to ensure that paramedics maintain resuscitation skills and adhere to current clinical practice guidelines are warranted. This may include the use of telemedicine and other forms of remote decision support, particularly in remote places or where paramedics request clinical support [
      • Amadi-obi A.
      • Gilligan P.
      • Owens N.
      • O’donnell C.
      Telemedicine in pre-hospital care: a review of telemedicine applications in the pre-hospital environment.
      ].
      In three of four preventable deaths, an absence of adequate haemorrhage control was noted. Haemorrhage has previously been identified as a leading cause of preventable deaths [
      • Kleber C.
      • Giesecke M.
      • Tsokos M.
      • Haas N.
      • Buschmann C.
      Trauma-related preventable deaths in Berlin 2010: need to change prehospital management strategies and trauma management education.
      ] and in these cases, control of major haemorrhage is the main priority. External haemorrhage can be managed through the use of tourniquets and/or topical haemostatic agents [
      • Bulger E.M.
      • Snyder D.
      • Schoelles K.
      • et al.
      An evidence-based prehospital guideline for external hemorrhage control: American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.
      ], both of which are now routine clinical practice in Ambulance Victoria. In patients with ongoing haemorrhage, time to definitive treatment at hospital is critical. It was noted that five potentially preventable or preventable deaths had excessive on-scene times; these were all in the setting of significant haemorrhage. Minimising on-scene times in these haemodynamically unstable patients, particularly in penetrating trauma, is critical to reducing mortality [
      • Brown J.B.
      • Rosengart M.R.
      • Forsythe R.M.
      • et al.
      Not all prehospital time is equal: influence of scene time on mortality.
      ,
      • Harmsen A.
      • Giannakopoulos G.
      • Moerbeek P.
      • Jansma E.
      • Bonjer H.
      • Bloemers F.
      The influence of prehospital time on trauma patients outcome: a systematic review.
      ].
      Ineffective chest decompression was noted in two cases. Anterior needle thoracocentesis has been noted to be an unreliable means of decompressing the chest of an unstable patient and it has been recommended that blunt dissection and digital decompression through the pleura (finger thoracostomy) is used [
      • Kaserer A.
      • Stein P.
      • Simmen H.-P.
      • Spahn D.R.
      • Neuhaus V.
      Failure rate of prehospital chest decompression after severe thoracic trauma.
      ,
      • Fitzgerald M.
      • Mackenzie C.
      • Marasco S.
      • Hoyle R.
      • Kossmann T.
      Pleural decompression and drainage during trauma reception and resuscitation.
      ]. Within our system, prehospital finger thoracostomy has been performed by intensive care flight paramedics since 2016, but this procedure is not currently endorsed for use by road-based paramedics.
      There were a number of system and clinical interventions that were or are novel in the context of prehospital care in our trauma system. Novel system-related interventions that were identified included early notification systems, video emergency calls, the provision of GPS coordinates as part of the emergency call, and improved protocols around trapped or crushed patients. Automatic crash notification systems automatically contact EMS with the aim of reducing EMS response times and reducing mortality [
      • Lahausse J.A.
      • Fildes B.N.
      • Page Y.
      • Fitzharris M.P.
      The Potential for Automatic Crash Notification Systems to Reduce Road Fatalities. Paper Presented at: Annals of Advances in Automotive Medicine/Annual Scientific Conference.
      ]. Such a system (eCall) has now been introduced in all new vehicles sold in Europe from April 2018. Additionally, providing the GPS coordinates from mobile phones as part of the emergency call would address situations where the incorrect address is provided in the call. We also identified a number of situations in which a video link from the scene to the emergency call centre may have provided a greater level of information about the scene (for example, the severity of entrapment in a vehicle) and the ability to provide first-aid instructions to bystanders.
      The timeliness of the dispatch of HEMS was queried in three cases. Tasking dispatch of HEMS or critical care units by clinicians with experience in prehospital critical care has been shown to improve the identification of severely injured trauma patients and reduce response times [
      • Garner A.A.
      • Lee A.
      • Weatherall A.
      • Langcake M.
      • Balogh Z.J.
      Physician staffed helicopter emergency medical service case identification-a before and after study in children.
      ,
      • Sinclair N.
      • Swinton P.A.
      • Donald M.
      • et al.
      Clinician tasking in ambulance control improves the identification of major trauma patients and pre-hospital critical care team tasking.
      ]. Therefore, in our region, consideration should be given to upgrading the qualification of the HEMS flight coordinator from an ALS paramedic to a senior intensive care paramedic.
      A number of clinical interventions were suggested during expert panel reviews for application in our trauma system, including the use of prehospital point of care ultrasonography and the administration of blood products (currently limited to intensive care flight paramedics). Military data on the use of prehospital blood products has demonstrated a greater likelihood of survival [
      • Shackelford S.A.
      • del Junco D.J.
      • Powell-Dunford N.
      • et al.
      Association of prehospital blood product transfusion during medical evacuation of combat casualties in Afghanistan with acute and 30-Day survival.
      ], however civilian data are limited, and we await the results of current randomised controlled trials [
      • Smith I.
      • Crombie N.
      • Bishop J.
      • et al.
      RePHILL: protocol for a randomised controlled trial of pre‐hospital blood product resuscitation for trauma.
      ].
      There has been growing international interest in taking invasive interventions used in the in-hospital setting to the prehospital setting, such as thoracotomy and resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA). Previous studies are limited to very small numbers [
      • Van Vledder M.G.
      • Van Waes O.J.
      • Kooij F.O.
      • Peters J.H.
      • Van Lieshout E.M.
      • Verhofstad M.H.
      Out of hospital thoracotomy for cardiac arrest after penetrating thoracic trauma.
      ,
      • Davies G.E.
      • Lockey D.J.
      Thirteen survivors of prehospital thoracotomy for penetrating trauma: a prehospital physician-performed resuscitation procedure that can yield good results.
      ,
      • Sadek S.
      • Lockey D.J.
      • Lendrum R.A.
      • Perkins Z.
      • Price J.
      • Davies G.E.
      Resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA) in the pre-hospital setting: an additional resuscitation option for uncontrolled catastrophic haemorrhage.
      ], and our results reflect this with panels suggesting that only two cases may have benefited from REBOA and no cases may have benefited from prehospital thoracotomy. Thus, the establishment of a system to provide REBOA or thoracotomies in our prehospital setting cannot be justified based on improvements in mortality.
      The strengths of this study include the highly detailed review of trauma deaths using multi-disciplinary expert panels. Expert panel reviews of trauma deaths have been criticised for poor inter-panel reliability [
      • Chiara O.
      • Cimbanassi S.
      • Pitidis A.
      • Vesconi S.
      Preventable trauma deaths: from panel review to population based-studies.
      ]. However, using a robust and internationally-recognised review methodology [
      • Mercier E.
      • Cameron P.A.
      • Smith K.
      • Beck B.
      Prehospital trauma death review in the State of Victoria, australia: a study protocol.
      ], we demonstrated a high level of agreement between panels. Furthermore, we have developed a methodology that is sustainable and reproducible over time and will enable robust comparisons between jurisdictions. This methodology focusses on prioritising the review of cases that had the potential for survival and is therefore an effective and efficient approach to identifying improvements to trauma systems. However, this study is not without limitations. Only half of the trauma deaths in this study had a full autopsy. Amid declining autopsy rates [
      • Burton J.L.
      • Underwood J.
      Clinical, educational, and epidemiological value of autopsy.
      ], increasing utilisation of post-mortem computed tomography may be needed. In this study, preventability was assessed based on clinical practice that was relevant at the time of the death, which is a strength of the study. However, this limits the ability to quantify cases in which changes to the system or clinical care may have led to improved outcomes. Furthermore, excluding cases in whom resuscitation was not attempted may under-represent the true number of preventable deaths, such as in situations where withholding resuscitation may have been a clinical error. Excluding trauma deaths that were not attended by EMS may also under-represent the true number of preventable deaths. Additionally, the majority of deaths in this study had unsurvivable anatomical injuries and there may be greater opportunities to understand ways to reduce trauma mortality by investigating early in-hospital deaths.

      Conclusion

      Using an in-depth expert panel review methodology, we identified a low rate of potentially preventable or preventable trauma deaths in a mature trauma system. We identified some specific circumstances in which the system of care could be further improved through novel system and clinical interventions. The potential incremental benefit from such interventions requires further evaluation. It is recommended that trauma systems consider utilising a similar methodology to ensure rigorous and efficient reviews of trauma deaths with the aim of improving systems of care.

      Funding

      This project was funded by the RACV Safety Research Fund , the Victorian State Government Department of Health and Human Services , the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) Foundation of Surgery and the Australian Resuscitation Council (Victorian Branch) .
      The Victorian State Trauma Registry (VSTR) is a Department of Health and Human Services, State Government of Victoria, and Transport Accident Commission funded project.
      Ben Beck was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award Fellowship (DE180100825). Peter Cameron was supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Practitioner Fellowship (#545926). Warwick Teague’s role as Director, Trauma Services, was supported by a grant from The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. Belinda Gabbe was supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT170100048). Ziad Nehme was supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Early Career Fellowship (#1146809). Janet Bray is supported by a Heart Foundation Fellowship.

      Acknowledgements

      The Victorian State Trauma Outcome Registry and Monitoring (VSTORM) group is thanked for the provision of VSTR data. We also thank the National Coronial Information System and the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine for their assistance.

      Appendix A. Supplementary data

      The following is Supplementary data to this article:

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