Defining major trauma: a Delphi study

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Abstract

Introduction: Retrospective trauma scores are often used to categorise trauma, however, they have little utility in the prehospital or hyper-acute setting and do not define major trauma to non-specialists. This study employed a Delphi process in order to gauge degrees of consensus/disagreement amongst expert panel members to define major trauma. Method: A two round modified Delphi technique was used to explore subject-expert consensus and identify variables to define major trauma through systematically collating questionnaire responses. After initial descriptive analysis of variables, Kruskal-Wallis tests were used to determine statistically significant differences (p < 0.05) in response to the Delphi statements between professional groups. A hierarchical cluster analysis was undertaken to identify patterns of similarity/difference of response. A grounded theory approach to qualitative analysis of data allowed for potentially multiple iterations of the Delphi process to be influenced by identified themes. Results: Of 55 expert panel members invited to participate, round 1 had 43 participants (Doctor n = 20, Paramedic n = 20, Nurse n = 5, other n = 2). No consistent patterns of opinion emerged with regards to professional group. Cluster analysis identified three patterns of similar responses and coded as trauma minimisers, the middle ground and the risk averse. Round 2 had 35 respondents with minimum change in opinion between rounds. Consensus of > 70% was achieved on many variables which included the identification of life/limb threatening injuries, deranged physiology, need for intensive care interventions and that extremes of age need special consideration. It was also acknowledged that retrospective injury severity scoring has a role to play but is not the only method of defining major trauma. Various factors had a majority of agreement/disagreement but did not meet the pre-set criteria of 70% agreement. These included the topics of burns, spinal immobilisation and whether a major trauma centre is the only place where major trauma can be managed. Conclusion: Based upon the output of this Delphi study, major trauma may be defined as: “Significant injury or injuries that have potential to be life-threatening or life-changing sustained from either high energy mechanisms or low energy mechanisms in those rendered vulnerable by extremes of age”.

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Thompson, L., Hill, M., Lecky, F., & Shaw, G. (2021). Defining major trauma: a Delphi study. Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine, 29(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13049-021-00870-w

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