Late death after multiple severe trauma: When does it occur and what are the causes?

Christian Probst, Boris A. Zelle, Nicola A. Sittaro, Ralf Lohse, Christian Krettek, Hans C. Pape

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION: The information about the long-term mortality and causes of death after multiple injuries is sparse. In general, most follow-up studies report on 1 year to 3 years maximum follow up. The current literature focuses on causes of death immediately after trauma or during the initial in-hospital stay. We report on long-term mortality and causes of death in patients with multiple injures up to 30 years after the initial injury. METHODS AND MATERIAL: We analyzed the causes of death using patient files, inquiries of patients' relatives, and death certificates. Inclusion criteria are (1) polytrauma (PT) (Injury Severity Score ≥16) between 1973 and 1990; (2) age 3 years to 60 years at injury; (3) admission to the hospital alive; and (4) death during the study period. Patients were separated into two groups: patients deceased during the initial hospital stay (in-hospital deaths, n = 408) and patients deceased after discharge (postdischarge deaths, n = 103). The survival of the PT victims was compared descriptively with age- and gender-matched data from the general population (GP). RESULTS: Causes of death in in-hospital deaths are head injury (37%), adult respiratory distress syndrome (14%), sepsis (11%), hemorrhagic shock (10%), pneumonia (9%), multiple organ failure (9%), and others (10%). Causes of death after discharge included cardiovascular diseases (23%), second major trauma (19%), neurologic diseases (16%), suicide (10%), malignancies (6%), and others (26%). The analysis of survival showed a higher mortality for PT compared with the GP group during the first year after the event (p < 0.05). Between 2 years and 10 years after the event, the annual mortality of the PT-group approximates the GP group. CONCLUSION: PT patients who die after discharge from the initial hospitalization show other causes of death than age-matched controls of the general population. Among these are second major trauma and suicide. Future studies should investigate whether certain social or psychologic factors might play a role.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1212-1217
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Cause of death
  • Mortality
  • Multiple injuries
  • Outcome
  • Polytrauma
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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