Background — Many injured patients are transported directly to trauma centers, found to be minimally injured, and discharged directly home from the emergency department (ED). Our objectives were to characterize the short-term outcomes in this discharged patient population and to identify patient factors predictive of ED return visits.
Methods — We conducted a retrospective population-based cohort study using linked administrative datasets involving patients assessed at trauma centers in Ontario, Canada between April 1, 2009 and March 31, 2020. Patients who were assessed by a trauma team and discharged directly home from ED were included. The primary outcome was the percentage of patients with an ED return visit within 14-days. We used multivariate logistic regression analyses to identify patient characteristics predictive of at least one ED return visit.
Results — There were 5550 patients included in the study. 1004 (18.1%) of patients had at least one ED return visit but only 100 patients (1.8%) were admitted to hospital following initial discharge. Common reasons for ED return visits included wound care concerns (17.2%), head injury complaints (15.6%), and substance misuse (6.8%). Rural residence (OR 1.83, 95% CI: 1.45 - 2.29), history of anxiety disorder (OR 2.05, 95% CI: 1.54 - 2.73), high baseline ED usage (OR 2.58, 95% CI: 2.03 - 3.28), penetrating injury (OR 1.42, 95% CI: 1.20 - 1.68), and extremity fracture (OR 1.52, 95% CI: 1.24 - 1.88) predicted return visits.
Conclusion — Patients discharged directly have high rates of ED return visits but low rates of hospital admission or delayed surgical intervention. Trauma services should expand quality assurance initiatives to capture return visits, understand any gaps in clinical service provision, and aim to minimize unnecessary ED return visits.
Level of evidence — Level VI prognostic study.