Disparities in trauma care: are fewer diagnostic tests conducted for uninsured patients with pelvic fracture?

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DOI: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2012.10.026


BACKGROUND: Research from other medical specialties suggests that uninsured patients experience treatment delays, receive fewer diagnostic tests, and have reduced health literacy when compared with their insured counterparts. We hypothesized that these disparities in interventions would not be present among patients experiencing trauma. Our objective was to examine differences in diagnostic and therapeutic procedures administered to patients undergoing trauma with pelvic fractures using a national database.

METHODS: A retrospective analysis was conducted using the National Trauma Data Bank (NTDB), 2002 to 2006. Patients aged 18 to 64 years who experienced blunt injuries with pelvic fractures were analyzed. Patients who were dead on arrival, those with an injury severity score (ISS) less than 9, those with traumatic brain injury, and patients with burns were excluded. The likelihood of the uninsured receiving select diagnostic and therapeutic procedures was compared with the same likelihood in the insured. Multivariate analysis for mortality was conducted, adjusting for age, sex, race, ISS, presence of shock, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) motor score, and mechanism of injury.

RESULTS: Twenty-one thousand patients met the inclusion criteria: 82% of these patients were insured and 18% were uninsured. There was no clinical difference in ISSs (21 vs 20), but the uninsured were more likely to present in shock (P < .001). The mortality rate in the uninsured was 11.6% vs 5.0% in the insured (P < .001). The uninsured were less likely to receive vascular ultrasonography (P = .01) and computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen (P < .005). There was no difference in the rates of CT of the thorax and abdominal ultrasonography, but the uninsured were more likely to receive radiographs. There was no difference in exploratory laparotomy and fracture reduction, but uninsured patients were less likely to receive transfusions, central venous pressure (CVP) monitoring, or arterial catheterization for embolization. Insurance-based disparities were less evident in level 1 trauma centers.

CONCLUSIONS: Uninsured patients with pelvic fractures get fewer diagnostic procedures compared with their insured counterparts; this disparity is much greater for more invasive and resource-intensive tests and is less apparent in level 1 trauma centers. Differences in care that patients receive after trauma may be 1 of the mechanisms that leads to insurance disparities in outcomes after trauma.

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American journal of surgery





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MeSH Keywords

Adolescent; Adult; Databases; Factual; Female; Fractures; Bone; Healthcare Disparities; Humans; Male; Medically Uninsured; Middle Aged; Multivariate Analysis; Outcome and Process Assessment (Health Care); Pelvic Bones; Retrospective Studies; United States; Wounds; Nonpenetrating; Young Adult


Pelvic Fractures; Uninsured; Disparities; Inequality; National Trauma Data Bank; NTDB; Outcomes