Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Department of Surgery, Carolinas Medical Center, 1000 Blythe Blvd., Medical Education Building, 6th floor, Charlotte, NC 28203, United States of America. Electronic address: [Email]
OBJECTIVE : Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is defined as Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) of 14 or 15. Despite good outcomes, patients are commonly transferred to trauma centers for observation and/or neurosurgical consultation. The aim of this study is to assess the value of redefining mTBI with novel radiographic criteria to determine the appropriateness of interhospital transfer for neurosurgical evaluation. METHODS : A retrospective study of patients with blunt head injury with GCS 13-15 and CT head from Jan 2014-Dec 2016 was performed. A novel criteria of head CT findings was created at our institution to classify mTBI. Outcomes included neurosurgical intervention and transfer cost. RESULTS : A total of 2120 patients were identified with 1442 (68.0%) meeting CT criteria for mTBI and 678 (32.0%) classified high risk. Two (0.14%) patients with mTBI required neurosurgical intervention compared with 143 (21.28%) high risk TBI (p < 0.0001). Mean age (55.8 years), and anticoagulation (2.6% vs 2.8%) or antiplatelet use (2.1% vs 3.0%) was similar between groups (p > 0.05). Of patients with mTBI, 689 were transferred without receiving neurosurgical intervention. Given an average EMS transfer cost of $700 for ground and $5800 for air, we estimate an unnecessary transfer cost of $733,600. CONCLUSIONS : Defining mTBI with the described novel criteria clearly identifies patients who can be safely managed without transfer for neurosurgical consultation. These unnecessary transfers represent a substantial financial and resource burden to the trauma system and inconvenience to patients.