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A retrospective analysis of geriatric trauma patients: venous lactate is a better predictor of mortality than traditional vital signs

Kristin M Salottolo12, Charles W Mains134, Patrick J Offner134, Pamela W Bourg3 and David Bar-Or124*

Author Affiliations

1 Trauma Research Department, St. Anthony Hospital, 11600 W. 2nd Place, Lakewood, CO 80228, USA

2 Trauma Research Department, Swedish Medical Center, Englewood, CO 80113, USA

3 Trauma Services Department, St. Anthony Hospital, Lakewood, CO 80228, USA

4 Rocky Vista University, Aurora, CO, 80011, USA

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Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine 2013, 21:7  doi:10.1186/1757-7241-21-7

Published: 14 February 2013



Traditional vital signs (TVS), including systolic blood pressure (SBP), heart rate (HR) and their composite, the shock index, may be poor prognostic indicators in geriatric trauma patients. The purpose of this study is to determine whether lactate predicts mortality better than TVS.


We studied a large cohort of trauma patients age ≥ 65 years admitted to a level 1 trauma center from 2009-01-01 - 2011-12-31. We defined abnormal TVS as hypotension (SBP < 90 mm Hg) and/or tachycardia (HR > 120 beats/min), an elevated shock index as HR/SBP ≥ 1, an elevated venous lactate as ≥ 2.5 mM, and occult hypoperfusion as elevated lactate with normal TVS. The association between these variables and in-hospital mortality was compared using Chi-square tests and multivariate logistic regression.


There were 1987 geriatric trauma patients included, with an overall mortality of 4.23% and an incidence of occult hypoperfusion of 20.03%. After adjustment for GCS, ISS, and advanced age, venous lactate significantly predicted mortality (OR: 2.62, p < 0.001), whereas abnormal TVS (OR: 1.71, p = 0.21) and SI ≥ 1 (OR: 1.18, p = 0.78) did not. Mortality was significantly greater in patients with occult hypoperfusion compared to patients with no sign of circulatory hemodynamic instability (10.67% versus 3.67%, p < 0.001), which continued after adjustment (OR: 2.12, p = 0.01).


Our findings demonstrate that occult hypoperfusion was exceedingly common in geriatric trauma patients, and was associated with a two-fold increased odds of mortality. Venous lactate should be measured for all geriatric trauma patients to improve the identification of hemodynamic instability and optimize resuscitative efforts.

Geriatric; Occult hypoperfusion; Shock index; Circulatory hemodynamic instability