The elderly trauma patient: An investment for the future?

Mark A. Newell, Michael F. Rotondo, Eric A. Toschlog, Brett H. Waibel, Scott G. Sagraves, Paul J. Schenarts, Michael R. Bard, Claudia E. Goettler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The cost of care in elderly (ELD) trauma patients is high compared with younger patients, but the association between age and reimbursement relative to cost is less clear. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between total costs (TC) and reimbursement in young (YNG) and ELD trauma patients. METHODS: The National Trauma Registry of the American College of Surgeons was queried for patients admitted to a level I trauma center between January 2002 and December 2004. YNG patients (18-64 years) were compared with ELD patients (≥65 years) for mechanism of injury, Injury Severity Score, and outcome variables. Data obtained from the hospital cost accounting system included TC, total payment, and net margin (P-L). Virtually, all patients were reimbursed based on the fixed diagnostic-related group payment. RESULTS: There were 641 ELD and 3,470 YNG patients included in the study. ELD patients were more commonly injured via a blunt mechanism than the YNG patients (97% vs. 83%; p < 0.001). The ELD were more severely injured (Injury Severity Score 14.9 ± 10.8 vs. 13.3 ± 10.9), developed more complications (54% vs. 34%), and died more frequently (17% vs. 4.7%; all p < 0.05). TC for the ELD were significantly higher than the YNG ($20,788.92 ± $28,305.54 vs. $19,161.11 ± $30,441.56; p = 0.02). Total payment ($20,049.75 ± $29,754.52 vs. $16,766.14 ± $31,169.15) and P-L (-$739.18 ± $17,207.84 vs. -$2,294.98 ± $22,309.51; both p < 0.05) were significantly better for the ELD cohort. However, a financial loss was realized for all patients with trauma. CONCLUSION: When compared with YNG trauma patients, reimbursement in the ELD appears favorable. However, compensation via diagnostic-related group payment fails to cover costs even in the ELD. Reimbursement for all patients with trauma is suboptimal and needs to be improved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-340
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Diagnostic-related group
  • Elderly
  • Reimbursement
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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