Nontrauma emergency surgery: Optimal case mix for general surgery and acute care surgery training

Jill R. Cherry-Bukowiec, Barbra S. Miller, Gerard M. Doherty, Melissa E. Brunsvold, Mark R. Hemmila, Pauline K. Park, Krishnan Raghavendran, Kristen C. Sihler, Wendy L. Wahl, Stewart C. Wang, Lena M. Napolitano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: To examine the case mix and patient characteristics and outcomes of the nontrauma emergency (NTE) service in an academic Division of Acute Care Surgery. Methods: An NTE service (attending, chief resident, postgraduate year-3 and postgraduate year-2 residents, and two physician assistants) was created in July 2005 for all urgent and emergent inpatient and emergency department general surgery patient consults and admissions. An NTE database was created with prospective data collection of all NTE admissions initiated from November 1, 2007. Prospective data were collected by a dedicated trauma registrar and Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation-intensive care unit (ICU) coordinator daily. NTE case mix and ICU characteristics were reviewed for the 2-year time period January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2009. During the same time period, trauma operative cases and procedures were examined and compared with the NTE case mix. Results: Thousand seven hundred eight patients were admitted to the NTE service during this time period (789 in 2008 and 910 in 2009). Surgical intervention was required in 70% of patients admitted to the NTE service. Exploratory laparotomy or laparoscopy was performed in 449 NTE patients, comprising 37% of all surgical procedures. In comparison, only 118 trauma patients (5.9% of admissions) required a major laparotomy or thoracotomy during the same time period. Acuity of illness of NTE patients was high, with a significant portion (13%) of NTE patients requiring ICU admission. NTE patients had higher admission Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation III scores [61.2 vs. 58.8 (2008); 58.2 vs. 55.8 (2009)], increased mortality [(9.71% vs. 4.89% (2008); 6.78% vs. 5.16% (2009)], and increased readmission rates (15.5% vs. 7.4%) compared with the total surgical ICU (SICU) admissions. Conclusion: In an era of declining operative caseload in trauma, the NTE service provides ample opportunity for complex general surgery decision making and operative procedures for surgical residency education, including advanced surgical critical care management. In addition, creation of an NTE service provides an optimal general surgery case mix, including major abdominal operations, that can augment declining trauma surgery caseloads, maintain acute care faculty surgical skills, and support general and acute care surgery residency training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1422-1427
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011


  • Acute care surgery
  • Emergency general surgery
  • Nonoperative trauma management
  • Nontrauma Emergency Surgery
  • Resident operative experience

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