Heat, Rain Boost ER Admissions

But icy streets don't make a difference, study finds

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WEDNESDAY, March 22, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Hotter days and downpours raise trauma admissions at hospital emergency rooms, but ice and snow don't seem to matter, a new study shows.

Researchers examined data on nearly 8,300 trauma patients admitted to the level-one trauma center at University Hospital, University of Louisville, from July 1996 to January 2002. They correlated that information with local weather data.

"Daily high temperature and precipitation were valid predictors of trauma admission volume," researcher Dr. Craig S. Roberts, a professor of orthopaedic surgery and director of the residency program at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

His team presented the findings Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, in Chicago.

"There was a 5.25 percent increase in hourly trauma-related incidents for each 10-degree difference in temperature, and a 60 to 78 percent increase in the trauma incident rate for each inch of precipitation in the previous three hours," Roberts said.

Trauma-related admissions peaked at roughly 5 p.m. each weeknight and waned at about 5 a.m. each morning. The researchers were surprised to find that wintry weather in the preceding six hours did not result in a surge of trauma patients. This could be because residents of the Louisville area tend to stay inside when there is snow and ice, the study authors suggested.

They said the study findings could help trauma centers better plan staffing requirements and resource allocation.

"Although most trauma staffing schedules are made six weeks in advance, the effect of historical weather and seasonal data on trauma admissions in a specific geographic region can be systematically applied to staffing decisions," Roberts said. "Historically busy times -- based on the same type of analysis we used -- can be better staffed to accommodate increased trauma volume."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences has more about trauma and other injuries.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, March 22, 2006

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