Dutch trauma system performance: Are injured patients treated at the right place?

L.M. Sturms*, M.L.S. Driessen, D. van Klaveren, H.J. ten Duis, G.J. Kommer, F.W. Bloemers, D. den Hartog, M.J. Edwards, P.A. Leenhouts, S. van Zutphen, I.B. Schipper, R. Spanjersberg, K.W. Wendt, R.J. de Wit, M. Poeze, L.P. Leenen, M. de Jongh

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: The goal of trauma systems is to match patient care needs to the capabilities of the receiving centre. Severely injured patients have shown better outcomes if treated in a major trauma centre (MTC). We aimed to evaluate patient distribution in the Dutch trauma system. Furthermore, we sought to identify factors associated with the undertriage and transport of severely injured patients (Injury Severity Score (ISS) >15) to the MTC by emergency medical services (EMS).Methods: Data on all acute trauma admissions in the Netherlands (2015-2016) were extracted from the Dutch national trauma registry. An ambulance driving time model was applied to calculate MTC transport times and transport times of ISS >15 patients to the closest MTC and non-MTC. A multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed to identify factors associated with ISS >15 patients' EMS undertriage to an MTC.Results: Of the annual average of 78,123 acute trauma admissions, 4.9% had an ISS >15. The nonseverely injured patients were predominantly treated at non-MTCs (79.2%), and 65.4% of patients with an ISS >15 received primary MTC care. This rate varied across the eleven Dutch trauma networks (36.8%-88.4%) and was correlated with the transport times to an MTC (Pearson correlation -0.753, p=0.007). The trauma networks also differed in the rates of secondary transfers of ISS >15 patients to MTC hospitals (7.8% 59.3%) and definitive MTC care (43.6% - 93.2%). Factors associated with EMS undertriage of ISS >15 patients to the MTC were female sex, older age, severe thoracic and abdominal injury, and longer additional EMS transport times.Conclusions: Approximately one-third of all severely injured patients in the Netherlands are not initially treated at an MTC. Special attention needs to be directed to identifying patient groups with a high risk of undertriage. Furthermore, resources to overcome longer transport times to an MTC, including the availability of ambulance and helicopter services, may improve direct MTC care and result in a decrease in the variation of the undertriage of severely injured patients to MTCs among the Dutch trauma networks. Furthermore, attention needs to be directed to improving primary triage guidelines and instituting uniform interfacility transfer agreements. (C) 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1688-1696
Number of pages9
JournalInjury-International Journal of the Care of the Injured
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • Trauma centres
  • severe trauma
  • undertriage
  • emergency medical services


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