Delayed trauma transfers don't leave patients worse off

While Illinois hospitals are routinely taking more time than what the state has deemed necessary to transfer trauma patients to higher level care facilities, researchers believe that it's the state's policy--not the caregivers--that needs adjusting. 

Currently, hospitals in Illinois have a two-hour window to transfer trauma patients to high-level trauma facilities, when necessary. However, a study published this week in the Archives of Surgery shows that of more than 22,000 transfers studied over a five-year period from 1999 to 2003, only 20 percent (slightly more than 4,500) took place in two hours or less. 

Despite the consistently blown deadlines, though, researchers determined that the patients whose transfer took longer were no better or worse off than those who were out the door quicker. 

"Our theory is that the two-hour rule should be abandoned, and that emergency department physicians or trauma surgeons at the first hospital are smart enough without a rule to get the right patient to the right place in the right amount of time," co-author Dr. Thomas Esposito of Loyola University Chicago's Stritch School of Medicine told the Chicago Sun-Times

The Illinois Department of Public Health, which initiated the two-hour rule, wants to see more recent data before it makes any judgments, according to the Sun-Times. Esposito and his colleagues, however, think more effort should go into ensuring that transfers occur under the proper conditions, the newspaper reports. 

To learn more:
- read this Chicago Sun-Times article
- here's the Archives of Surgery abstract