What price commitment: What benefit? The cost of a saved life in a developing level i Trauma Center

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: In 1999, a Level I Trauma Center committed significant resources for development, recruitment of trauma surgeons, and call pay for subspecialists. Although this approach has sparked a national ethical debate, little has been published investigating efficacy. This study examines the price of commitment and outcomes at a Level I Trauma Center. Methods: Direct personnel costs including salary, call pay, and personnel expenses were analyzed against outcomes for two periods defined as PRE (1994-1999) and POST (2000-2005). Patient care costs and 1999 to 2000 transition data were excluded. Demographics, outcomes, and direct personnel costs were compared. Significant mortality reductions stratified by age and injury severity score (ISS) were used to calculate lives saved in relation to direct personnel costs. Student's t test and χ were used (significance *p < 0.05). Results: In the PRE period, there were 7,587 admissions compared with 11,057 POST. There were no significant differences PRE versus POST for age (41.4 ± 24.4 years vs. 41.3 ± 24.9 years), gender (62.4% vs. 63.7% male), mechanism of injury (11.5% vs. 11.8% penetrating), and percent intensive care unit admissions (30.1 vs. 29.9). Significant differences were noted for ISS (10.5 ± 9.7 vs. 11.6 ± 10.1*), percent admissions with ISS ≥16 (18.5 vs. 27.3*), and revised trauma score (10.8 ± 2.8 vs. 10.7 ± 2.8*). Both the average length of stay (6.8 ± 8.8 vs. 6.5 ± 9.8*) and percent mortality for ISS ≥16 (23 vs. 17*) were reduced. When mortality was stratified by both age and ISS, significant reductions were noted and a total of 173 lives were saved as a result. However, direct personnel costs increased from $7.6 million to $22.7 million. When cost is allocated to lives saved; the cost of a saved life was more than $87,000. ConclusionS: Resources for program development, including salary and call pay, significantly reduced mortality. Price of commitment: $3 million per year. The cost of a saved life: $87,000. The benefit: 173 surviving patients who would otherwise be dead.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-921
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Commitment
  • Cost
  • Mortality
  • Outcomes
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'What price commitment: What benefit? The cost of a saved life in a developing level i Trauma Center'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this