Age in severely injured patients has been increasing for decades. Older age is associated with increasing mortality. However, morbidity and mortality could possibly be reduced when accurate and aggressive treatment is provided. This study investigated age-related morbidity and mortality in polytrauma including age-related decisions in initial injury management and withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy (WLST).
A 6.5-year prospective cohort study included consecutive severely injured trauma patients admitted to a Level-1 Trauma Center ICU. Demographics, data on physiology, resuscitation, MODS/ARDS, and infectious complications were prospectively collected. Patients were divided into age subgroups (< 25, 25-49, 50-69, and ≥ 70 years) to make clinically relevant comparisons.
391 patients (70% males) were included with median ISS of 29 (22-36), 95% sustained blunt injuries. There was no difference in injury severity, resuscitation, urgent surgeries, nor in ventilator days, ICU-LOS, and H-LOS between age groups. Adjusted odds of MODS, ARDS and infectious complications were similar between age groups. 47% of patients ≥ 70 years died, compared to 10-16% in other age groups (P < 0.001). WLST increased with older age, contributing to more than half of deaths ≥ 70 years. TBI was the most common cause of death and decision for treatment withdrawal in all age groups.
Patients ≥ 70 years had higher mortality risk even though injury severity and complication rates were similar to other age groups. WLST increased with age with the vast majority due to brain injury. More than half of patients ≥ 70 years survived suggesting geriatric polytrauma patients should not be excluded from aggressive injury treatment based on age alone.