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Study: More Trauma Patients Surviving Hospital Stay

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- The quality of care received by injured patients on the scene and in hospital trauma centers plays an important role in their ability to leave the hospital alive. A new study of trauma patients finds that many more are surviving their hospital stay, however, survival rates at three years for these patients are lower than expected. 

An ambulance is often the quickest way to transport an injured patient to the hospital for treatment. Once inside a trauma center, that treatment is critical to their overall survival.

Researchers in Washington state found patients who die from their injuries while in the hospital decreased from eight percent in 1995 to about five percent in 2008. "That's the good news. So many more patients survive the hospital stay and get discharged," says Dr. Sam Arbabi from Harborview Medical Center, in Seattle and co-author of the study. He then wanted to know where these patients go after leaving the hospital and what their long-term survival rates are. Researchers analyzed statewide trauma records that were linked to death certificate data over a period of 14 years. "Overall trauma patients have a higher likelihood to die even if they survive their injury in the hospital compared to non-trauma patients," according to Dr. Arbabi. 

The study appears in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association

After hospitalization for trauma, about half the patients go home, the rest are admitted to rehabilitation or skilled nursing facilities.  "Patients that get discharged to skilled nursing facilities as opposed to patients that get discharged to rehab centers or patients that get discharged home have higher risk of death in one year and three years," according to Arbabi.  Researchers do emphasize that patients released to skilled nursing facilities are often older and lower functioning than those who go elsewhere. "It doesn't suggest that skilled nursing facility is the cause, it's an association but it does suggest that there is an area that we can improve outcomes," Arbabi points out.

Researchers say the next step would be compiling outcome data from skilled nursing facilities like hospitals provide to look at ways of increasing survival rates at those facilities.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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