Air transportation over-utilization in pediatric trauma patients.

Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2020.08.033


BACKGROUND: Air transportation can be a life-saving transfer modality for trauma patients. However, it is also costly and carries risk for air-crews and patients. We sought to examine the incidence of air transportation among pediatric trauma patients as well as the rate of over-triage in utilizing this intervention.

METHODS: We conducted a single-institution retrospective review of all pediatric trauma patients who utilized air transportation, either from scene to hospital or hospital to hospital Emergency Department (ED) transfers, between 2013 and 2018.

RESULTS: There were 348 pediatric trauma patients who utilized air transport. More than half of all patients (n = 186, 55.9%) were discharged from the hospital within 48 h, 121 (36.3%) were discharged within 24 h, and 34 (10.2%) were discharged home from the ED. The mean ISS was 11.2 ± 0.5 while only 31% had an ISS ≥15. There were 97 patients (27.9%) with elevated age adjusted shock index, and 101 patients (29.0%) who required time sensitive interventions. More than half of patients (59.3%) were initially taken to an outside hospital (OSH) and were then transferred to our facility by air while 40.4% were transported directly from scene to our institution by air. Patients who were transferred from an OSH were younger (6.8 ± 0.4 vs 11.2 ± 0.4, p < 0.01) and had a higher incidence of an elevated age-adjusted shock index (32.4% vs 19.1%, p = 0.006) as well as mortality (6.3% vs 1.4%, p = 0.03). However, ultimately there were no differences in ISS, rates of operative intervention, PICU utilization, or time sensitive intervention. Both groups had similarly high rates of discharge within 48 h, 24 h, and from the ED.

CONCLUSIONS: Air transportation among pediatric trauma patients from scene to hospital and hospital to hospital is over-utilized based on multiple metrics including low rates of ISS ≥15, elevated age-adjusted shock indexes, low rates of time sensitive intervention, as well as high rates of discharge within 24 and 48 h.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: III TYPE OF STUDY: Clinical Research-retrospective review.

Journal Title

Journal of pediatric surgery





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Air transportation; Overtriage; Pediatric trauma

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