This study prospectively examined the care of trauma patients in extremis on presentation to a tertiary medical center between January 2000 and August 31, 2002. There were 144 patients who presented without a pulse or spontaneous respiration and required cardiopulmonary resuscitation (mean age, 41.5+/-2.3 years; male-to-female ratio, 105:39). Successfully resuscitated patients, who were either admitted to the surgical intensive care unit (SICU) or who were taken to the operating room for surgical exploration, had significantly shorter duration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (14.55+/-1.64 minutes vs. 33.32+/-1.23 minutes; P < 0.001) and received less amounts of epinephrine than those who died in the emergency room (P < 0.05). One hundred sixteen patients died in the emergency room. Nineteen admitted patients died within 24 hours of presentation. Nine patients survived beyond 24 hours and all of them were admitted directly to the SICU for the management of brain injury. Six patients were taken to the operating room for surgical exploration to control the bleeding; all of them died in the operating room or shortly thereafter in the SICU. No patient in this study survived to be discharged. The financial cost of successfully resuscitated patients was significantly higher than that of patients who died in the emergency room (P < 0.001). Instead of insisting on aggressive measures to resuscitate trauma patients in extremis on presentation, the authors suggest we should redirect that fervor toward efforts made to promote trauma awareness and injury prevention programs.
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