Nationwide secondary overtriage in level 3 and level 4 trauma centers: are these transfers necessary? J Surg Res

Document Type


Publication Date



Background—Secondary overtriage (SO) refers to the interfacility transfer of trauma patients who are rapidly discharged home without surgical intervention by the receiving institution. SO imposes a financial hardship on patients and strains trauma center resources. Most studies on SO have been conducted from the perspective of the receiving hospital, which is usually a level 1 trauma center. Having previously studied SO from the referring rural hospital’s perspective, we sought to identify variables contributing to SO at the national level. Methods—Using data from the 2008-2012 National Trauma Data Bank, we isolated patients transferred to level 1 trauma centers who were: (1) discharged home within 48 h and (2) did not undergo any surgical procedure. This population was subsequently compared with similar patients treated at and discharged directly from level 3 and 4 centers. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to isolate variables that independently influenced a patient’s risk of undergoing SO. Injury patterns were characterized by use of subspecialty consultants. Results—A total of 99,114 patients met inclusion criteria, of which 13.2% were discharged directly from level 3 or 4 trauma centers, and 86.8% of them were transferred to a level 1 trauma center before discharge. The mean Injury Severity Score of the nontransfer and transfer groups was 5.4 ± 4.5 and 7.3 ± 5.7, respectively. Multivariate regression analysis showed that Injury Severity Score > 15, alcoholism, smoking, drug use, and certain injury patterns involving the head, vertebra, and face were associated with being transferred. In this minimally injured population, factors protective against transfers were: age > 65 y, female gender, systolic blood pressure Conclusions—SO results from the complex interplay of variables including patient demographics, facility characteristics, and injury type. The inability to exclude a potentially devastating neurologic injury seems to drive SO.