Author: Rachel Brady, MD

Educational Pearls:

  • Elderly patients (>65 years old) have a higher trauma mortality compared to younger patients, even though they have lower mechanisms of injury
  • Elder trauma is often under-triaged due to low-energy mechanisms and lack of physiologic response due to age and medications such as beta-blockers. Do not be reassured by normal vital signs.
  • Image elderly patients with head injury aggressively since they are at high risk of intracranial bleeds
  • Be sure to ask about anticoagulation use. Up to 15% of asymptomatic head injury patients  on warfarin will have intracranial bleeds on CT.
  • Be on the lookout for unstable C-spine injuries such as type II odontoid fractures
  • Central cord syndrome is a possibility with any neck extension injury
  • Rib fractures are common, with mortality increasing greatly with more than 2 ribs involved
  • The elderly are more prone to musculoskeletal injuries due to loss of bone density
  • Always discuss goals of care with these patients

References

Rathlev NK, Medzon R, Lowery D, Pollack C, Bracken M, Barest G, Wolfson AB, Hoffman JR, Mower WR. Intracranial pathology in elders with blunt head trauma. Acad Emerg Med. 2006 Mar;13(3):302-7. doi: 10.1197/j.aem.2005.10.015. PubMed PMID: 16514123.

Keller JM, Sciadini MF, Sinclair E, O’Toole RV. Geriatric trauma: demographics, injuries, and mortality. J Orthop Trauma. 2012 Sep;26(9):e161-5. doi: 10.1097/BOT.0b013e3182324460. PubMed PMID: 22377505.

Bulger EM, Arneson MA, Mock CN, Jurkovich GJ. Rib fractures in the elderly. J Trauma.2000 Jun;48(6):1040-6; discussion 1046-7. doi: 10.1097/00005373-200006000-00007. PubMed PMID: 10866248.

Hashmi A, Ibrahim-Zada I, Rhee P, Aziz H, Fain MJ, Friese RS, Joseph B. Predictors of mortality in geriatric trauma patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2014 Mar;76(3):894-901. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182ab0763. Review. PubMed PMID: 24553567.

Brooks SE, Peetz AB. Evidence-Based Care of Geriatric Trauma Patients. Surg Clin North Am. 2017 Oct;97(5):1157-1174. doi: 10.1016/j.suc.2017.06.006. Review. PubMed PMID: 28958363.

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