Conference Coverage

FVC deterioration signals increasing risk in rib fracture patients



Deteriorating forced vital capacity (FVC) levels predict heightened risk of complications in rib fracture patients, according to a study presented at the annual scientific assembly Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma.

Daily, easily conducted, bedside FVC monitoring can help identify the first signs of a worsening condition and lead to earlier intervention, according to presenter Rachel Warner, DO, a surgical resident at West Virginia University, Morgantown.

“Unplanned upgrades to the ICU have been associated with prolonged hospital stay, mechanical ventilation, and even higher risk of mortality when compared to planned upgrades,” Dr. Warner explained. “We aim to decrease these events by creating a system where early decline can be recognized by any member of the health care team.”

In a retrospective study, investigators analyzed 1,106 rib fracture patients enrolled in a rib fracture care pathway at a Level I trauma center during 2009-2014, all of whom were admitted with an FVC greater than 1 L. Patients’ FVCs were assessed with spirometry in the ED, and the results were then used to determine their care placement. Then FVC was continually monitored throughout each patient’s stay at the hospital. The investigators hypothesized that those patients whose FVC level deteriorated to lower than 1 L were at higher risk for complications.

Two groups of patients were analyzed: Group A was composed of patients whose initial FVC scores were greater than or equal to 1 but deteriorated over time to below 1, while Group B was composed of patients whose scores remained above 1. Group A patients were an average age 58 years and were majority male (61%); their had FVC scores initially averaged 1.3 but dropped to a low of 0.7. Patients in group B were on average younger, at 48 years, but also majority male (79%); they had a slightly higher initial average FVC of 1.6, with a low of 1.4.

Rate of complications among patients whose FVC scores dropped below 1 was 15%, compared with 3.2% in the other group (P less than .001).

Group A patients were significantly more likely than were Group B patients to develop pneumonia (9% vs. 4%, respectively), be upgraded to the intensive care unit (3.7% vs. 0.2%), require intubation (1.6% vs. 0.1%), or be readmitted (4% vs. 1%).

Average length of stay for patients whose FVC score dropped below 1 was 10 days, compared with 4 days among the patients who maintained a higher FVC. Mortality rates were also significantly higher at 3%, compared with 0.2%. Dr. Warner said that FVC levels can be the first indication of worsening clinical status and should be treated as an early warning sign for which patients may need to be preemptively moved to a higher level of care.

Dr. Warner and her colleagues were limited by the retrospective nature of their analysis, as well as not including other injuries into their analysis.

In a discussion of the study, Bryce R.H. Robinson, MD, FACS, of Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Wash., supported using data such as FVC to help identify at-risk patients early. “I am encouraged to see others utilize easily obtainable, objective measures for those at risk for pulmonary decompensation with rib fractures,” said Dr. Robinson.

While keeping the cutoff at 1 L for FVC testing regardless of other factors, like sex or weight, would make it easy to train all members of the medical team, this may be oversimplifying FVC measurements, cautioned Dr. Robinson.

“While it is a little bit less specific to the patient, broad adaptation across the health care team is much more feasible with standard values,” responded Dr. Warner. “Given this, we do intentionally accept a level of overtriaged patients. We have found these patients generally make up the geriatric population and have confounding factors that would otherwise make them high risk for complications.”

Investigators reported no relevant financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Warner R et al. EAST Scientific Assembly 2018 abstract #9

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