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Attenuation of MODS-related and ARDS-related mortality makes infectious complications a remaining challenge in the severely injured
  1. Karlijn J.P. van Wessem,
  2. Falco Hietbrink,
  3. Luke P.H. Leenen
  1. Department of Trauma Surgery, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Karlijn J.P. van Wessem; kwessem{at}


Introduction The recent decrease in multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS)-associated and adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)-associated mortality could be considered a success of improvements in trauma care. However, the incidence of infections remains high in patients with polytrauma, with high morbidity and hospital resources usage. Infectious complications might be a residual effect of the decrease in MODS-related/ARDS-related mortality. This study investigated the current incidence of infectious complications in polytrauma.

Methods A 5.5-year prospective population-based cohort study included consecutive severely injured patients (age >15) admitted to a (Level-1) trauma center intensive care unit (ICU) who survived >48 hours. Demographics, physiologic and resuscitation parameters, multiple organ failure and ARDS scores, and infectious complications (pneumonia, fracture-related infection, meningitis, infections related to blood, wound, and urinary tract) were prospectively collected. Data are presented as median (IQR), p<0.05 was considered significant.

Results 297 patients (216 (73%) men) were included with median age of 46 (27–60) years, median Injury Severity Score was 29 (22–35), 96% sustained blunt injuries. 44 patients (15%) died. One patient (2%) died of MODS and 1 died of ARDS. 134 patients (45%) developed 201 infectious complications. Pneumonia was the most common complication (50%). There was no difference in physiologic parameters on arrival in emergency department and ICU between patients with and without infectious complications. Patients who later developed infections underwent more often a laparotomy (32% vs 18%, p=0.009), had more often pelvic fractures (38% vs 25%,p=0.02), and received more blood products <8 hours. They had more often MODS (25% vs 13%, p=0.005), stayed longer on the ventilator (10 (5–15) vs 5 (2–8) days, p<0.001), longer in ICU (11 (6–17) vs 6 (3–10) days, p<0.001), and in hospital (30 (20–44) vs 16 (10–24) days, p<0.001). There was however no difference in mortality (12% vs 17%, p=0.41) between both groups.

Conclusion 45% of patients developed infectious complications. These patients had similar mortality rates, but used more hospital resources. With low MODS-related and ARDS-related mortality, infections might be a residual effect, and are one of the remaining challenges in the treatment of patients with polytrauma.

Level of evidence Level 3.

Study type Population-based cohort study.

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  • Contributors KW, FH, and LL have contributed to the conception and design of the study. KW and LL have performed acquisition of data. KW has done the analysis and interpretation of data. KW and FH have drafted the article. LL has revised it critically for important intellectual content. KW, FH, and LL have given final approval of the version to be submitted.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The local ethics committee approved this prospective observational study (reference number WAG/mb/16/026664)

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

  • Data availability statement The dataset supporting the conclusions of this article are available upon reasonable request from the corresponding author.

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