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Grey’s Anatomy effect: television portrayal of patients with trauma may cultivate unrealistic patient and family expectations after injury
  1. Rosemarie O Serrone,
  2. Jordan A Weinberg,
  3. Pamela W Goslar,
  4. Erin P Wilkinson,
  5. Terrell M Thompson,
  6. Jonathan L Dameworth,
  7. Shawna R Dempsey,
  8. Scott R Petersen
  1. Department of Surgery, Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jordan A Weinberg, Department of Surgery, Dignity Health - St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, AZ 85013, USA; Jordan.Weinberg{at}


Background Expectations of the healthcare experience may be influenced by television dramas set in the hospital workplace. It is our perception that the fictional television portrayal of hospitalization after injury in such dramas is misrepresentative. The purpose of this study was to compare trauma outcomes on television dramas versus reality.

Methods We screened 269 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, a popular medical drama. A television (TV) registry was constructed by collecting data for each fictional trauma portrayed in the television series. Comparison data for a genuine patient cohort were obtained from the 2012 National Trauma Databank (NTDB) National Program Sample.

Results 290 patients composed of the TV registry versus 4812 patients from NTDB. Mortality was higher on TV (22% vs 7%, P<0.0001). Most TV patients went straight from emergency department (ED) to operating room (OR) (71% vs 25%, P<0.0001). Among TV survivors, a relative minority were transferred to long-term care (6% vs 22%, P<0.0001). For severely injured (Injury Severity Score ≥25) survivors, hospital length of stay was less than 1 week for 50% of TV patients versus 20% in NTDB (P<0.0001).

Conclusions Trauma patients as depicted on television dramas typically go from ED to OR, and survivors usually return home. Television portrayal of rapid functional recovery after major injury may cultivate false expectations among patients and their families.

Level of evidence Level III.

  • television
  • injury patient
  • patient experience

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  • Contributors ROS, JAW, PWG and SRP contributed to the study concept, design, analysis, manuscript preparation and critical revisions. TMT contributed to study design and analysis. ROS, JAW, EPW, JLD and SRD contributed to data collection.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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