Prudent care of head trauma in the elderly: A case report

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    Introduction: Severe traumatic brain injury is a major public health problem that accounts for one-third of all deaths due to trauma in the United States. This case report illustrates some of the challenges faced by the elderly in accessing essential emergency services for traumatic brain injury. Case presentation: A 74-year-old Caucasian man presented with head trauma at his local acute care hospital (level lll/IV) in Canada at 2:30 PM. He was triaged at 4:00 PM and was seen by the emergency room physician at 4:50 PM. His vital signs were normal, and his Glasgow Coma Scale score was 15/15 upon admission. A computed tomography-based diagnosis of acute subdural hematoma was subsequently made by a radiologist at 5:00 PM. A neurosurgical transfer was requested to the nearby tertiary trauma center (level I/ll), but was initially refused by the neurosurgical resident on call. The patient's condition slowly deteriorated until he became unconscious at 7:45 PM. The patient was intubated and transferred to the neurosurgical unit at 8:34 PM. He was seen by a consultant neurosurgeon at 9:30 PM, but surgery (craniotomy) was deemed not viable, given the patient's age and the fact that his pupils were now fixed and dilated (Glasgow Coma Scale score 3/15). The patient was taken off life support at 1:00 AM the following morning and died shortly thereafter. The patient's family made a formal complaint, but the decision by an independent medical review panel was that "the patient's care was prudent, timely and professional." Conclusions: Geriatric patients with severe head injury are less likely than their younger counterparts to be transferred to neurosurgical trauma centers. Protocol-driven care of the elderly can reduce mortality due to head trauma through the application of the Brain Trauma Foundation guidelines.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number448
    Number of pages3
    JournalJournal of Medical Case Reports
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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