Does the applied polytrauma definition notably influence outcome and patient population? – a retrospective analysis
INTRODUCTION There is limited information available about the long-term follow-up of polytrauma patients. In this study, the social and medical sequelae of trauma were reinvestigated at 10 years after the injury. METHODS Patients were selected out of a population of polytraumatised patients treated at Hannover Medical School between 1973 and 1990. INCLUSION CRITERIA multiple injuries treated at one institution, age between 3 and 60 years of age at the time of injury. Patients were recruited by gathering their residences from the charts. If patients had moved, up to three different registration offices were contacted by mail. The patient was contacted by mail (maximum three times) and by telephone. A patient was documented as lost to follow-up if none of these attempts was successful, or if he did not fulfil three subsequent appointments. All patients were examined by a physician, using a patient questionnaire and a standardized physical exam. RESULTS Six hundred thirty-seven patients (67.8% of the potential enrollees) were evaluated on an outpatient basis by a trauma surgeon using a self-administered patient questionnaire and a standardized physical exam. In these, the average follow-up was 17.5 (range 10-28) years; the average Injury Severity Score (ISS) was 20.7 (range 4-54). Head injuries were the third most frequent injuries, but represented the most frequent cause of permanent disability (40%). The overall rehabilitation status graded by the patients was very good in 14.1%, good in 33.0%, satisfactory in 29.3%, sufficient in 16.0% and poor or insufficient in 7.5%. CONCLUSIONS This study suggests that a high percentage of patients can be recruited for follow-up even after 10 years post trauma with the use of a meticulous reinvitation strategy. Head injuries accounted for the most frequent cause of disability, suggesting that more research should be provided to minimise the degree of injury and improve the outcome for head injured patients. Subjective grading of the outcome was better than expected in patients who had regained complete social rehabilitation.