Editor's choice| Volume 42, ISSUE 12, P987-995, December 2017

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Patients Transferred for Upper Extremity Amputation: Participation of Regional Trauma Centers

Published:September 20, 2017DOI:


      Level-I trauma centers are required to provide hand and microsurgery capability at all times. We examined transfers to our center to better understand distant patient referrals and, indirectly, study referrals in our region.


      Records were reviewed from 2010 to 2015 to evaluate patients transferred to our level-I institution for upper extremity amputation. Patients were referred from 6 states to our institution over this period. We measured the straight-line distance from each patient's transferring facility to our facility and compared this distance with the straight-line distances from the zip code of the transferring facility to the zip code of each level-I trauma center.


      We had data for 250 transferred patients (91% male, 9% female). For 110 patients (44%), our hospital was the nearest level-I trauma center; however, for the remaining 140 patients (56%), other level-I trauma facilities were located closer to the referring hospital. Among these 140 patients, the mean distance of the referring facility to the nearest level-I trauma center (30 miles; SD, 27) was significantly different from the mean distance of the referring facility to our facility (71 miles; SD, 60). A median of 4 (range, 1–10) level-I trauma centers were bypassed before patients arrived at our center. Medicaid and “self-pay” patients were more likely to be transferred to our facility.


      Fifty-six percent of patients transferred to our hospital for upper extremity amputation had a level-I trauma center closer to their injury. Patients with upper extremity amputation are referred to our regional center despite the proximity of closer level-I trauma centers. This suggests that regional microsurgery expertise does not correlate with level-I trauma designation, and establishment of designated microsurgery centers and formal referral guidelines may be beneficial for management of these difficult injuries.

      Clinical relevance

      We believe that this study further supports the need for formal designation of regional centers of expertise for microsurgical hand trauma.

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