A review of 38,000 patient records conducted by Johns Hopkins University suggests that older adults who have sustained significant head trauma over the weekend are more likely to expire from their injuries than individuals who have been similarly hurt and hospitalized Monday through Friday. Researchers add that the results remain the same even if the injuries of the hospitalized weekenders are less severe and the individuals have fewer illnesses than their weekday counterparts.

Researchers report that in the study they used data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project’s Nationwide Inpatient Sample from 2006 to 2008. Study leader Eric B. Schneider, PhD, epidemiologist, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Center For Trials and Outcomes Research, notes that during the study, they found no medical reason for the declined results on weekends, “It’s more likely a difference in how hospitals operate over the weekend as opposed to during the week, meaning that there may be a real opportunity for hospitals to change how they operate and save lives.” 

Schneider and his team reportedly assessed records from 38,675 individuals aged 65 years old to 89 years old admitted to US hospitals with head trauma. Researchers note that in the study group, 26% of admissions occurred on weekends. The overall results suggested that weekend patients were 14% more likely to expire from their injuries than weekday patients. The release notes that cost of care was roughly the same among both weekend and weekday patients, suggested that they received similar treatments, however researchers say, differences in the timing of treatments could not be examined in the available data. Researchers add that while patients were evaluated and treated at trauma centers, teaching hospitals, and community hospitals, researchers could not discern from the available data which type of facility saw which patient. 

According to Schneider, in addition to other factors, some hospitals may also experience delays in getting specialists such as neurosurgeons to the hospital on Saturdays or Sundays. A potential approach, Schneider says, is for emergency medical personnel to transport older patients with head injuries directly to the nearest trauma center and bypass closer facilities that cannot provide that level of care. 

Source: Johns Hopkins