Unravelling the debate over orthopaedic trauma transfers: The sender's perspective

Christiaan N. Mamczak, Philipp N. Streubel, Michael J. Gardner, William M. Ricci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction The increasing frequency of orthopaedic trauma patient transfers is an issue at the centre of the current orthopaedic "call crisis" that has the potential to inundate resources at tertiary care centres. Appropriateness of transfer has been investigated only from the perspective of receiving surgeons. This study investigates the suitability and reasons for orthopaedic trauma patient transfer from the viewpoint of transferring surgeons. Methods A questionnaire was e-mailed to a random sampling of 500 active members of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association. Surgeons were split into three groups: senders of trauma patients (senders); orthopaedic traumatologists who receive transfers (traumatologist receivers); and other trauma transfer receivers that are not traumatologists (non-traumatologist receivers). The perceived complexity and appropriateness for transfer of eight virtual case scenarios were determined, along with the specific reasons mitigating transfer. Results 51 Senders, 90 traumatologist receivers, and 98 non-traumatologist receivers completed 239 surveys. There was agreement between groups for case complexity and appropriateness for transfer in five of eight case scenarios (p < 0.05). Fracture complexity was cited as the primary reason for transfer by 28% of senders. However, just as common was a lack of resources at the sending hospital; OR equipment (18%), critical care services (18%), and inability to handle the immediacy of the case (7%) were also cited. Likelihood of uninsured status was the least common reason for transfer (1%). Conclusions In most cases, both senders and receivers of orthopaedic trauma have similar viewpoints regarding fracture complexity and appropriateness of transfer. Sending surgeons cite case complexity and a lack of hospital resources as the primary reasons for patient transfer. Mandating increased call for orthopaedic surgeons at non-trauma centres without a concomitant increase in hospital resources is unlikely to substantially reduce unnecessary patient transfers to higher level facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1832-1837
Number of pages6
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Appropriateness of transfer
  • Orthopaedic call crisis
  • Orthopaedic trauma transfers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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