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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Crash Injury Prediction and Vehicle Damage Reporting by Paramedics: A Feasibility Study


Objective: The accuracy of pre-hospital crash scene details and crash victim assessment has important implications for initial trauma care assessment and management. Similarly, it is known to influence physician perception of crash victim injury severity. The goal of this feasibility study was to examine paramedic accuracy in predicting crash victim injury profile, disability outcome at hospital discharge, and reporting vehicle damage with other crash variables.

Methods: This prospective case series study was undertaken at a Southern California, Level I trauma center certified by the American College of Surgeons. Paramedics transporting crash injured motor vehicle occupants to our emergency department (ED)/trauma center were surveyed. We abstracted ED and in-patient records of injured vehicle occupants. Vehicle and crash scene data were obtained from a professional crash reconstruction, which included the assessment of deformation, crash forces, change in velocity, and the source of each injury.

Results: We used survey, injury, and crash reconstruction data from 22 collision cases in the final analysis. The median Injury Severity Score (ISS) was five (range 1-24). No enrolled patients died, and none were severely disabled at the time of discharge from the hospital. The paramedic crash injury severity predictions were sensitive for an Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) of 2-4. Paramedics often agreed with the crash reconstruction on restraint use, ejection, and other fatalities at the scene, and had lower levels of agreement for front airbag deployment, steering wheel damage, and window/windshield impact. Paramedics had 80% accuracy in predicting any disability at the time of hospital discharge.

Conclusion: Paramedic prediction of injury profile was sensitive, and prediction of disability outcome at discharge was accurate when compared to discharge diagnosis. Their reporting of vehicle specific crash variables was less accurate. Further study should be undertaken to assess the benefits of crash biomechanics education for paramedics and other pre-hospital care providers. [WestJEM. 2009;10:62-67.]

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