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Weekends may be more deadly for California brain injury patients

Every year, about 1.4 million people suffer head injuries in California and across the United States, resulting in approximately 50,000 annual fatalities. Now, a new study has reportedly found that brain injury patients are more likely to die if they are admitted to the hospital on a weekend than on a weekday. This is believed to be the result of inconsistent staffing levels during the two time periods.

Medical professionals have long been aware of the effect of the so-called "weekend effect" on heart attack and stroke patients, but this is believed to be the first time it has been studied in connection with head and brain injuries. In the study, researchers analyzed the hospital records of nearly 40,000 patients between the ages of 65 and 89 who were admitted to U.S. hospitals with a head trauma. About 10,000 of those patients, or 25 percent, were admitted on weekends.

The researchers found that the patients who went into the hospital on weekends were about 15 percent more likely to pass away as a result of their head injuries than those who were admitted on weekdays. This was the case even when the records were adjusted for age, other illnesses and severity of the head trauma.

Staffing is believed to be the cause of this disparity, with fewer doctors and nurses and almost no specialists working on weekends. The researchers did not distinguish between the types of facilities, such as Level 1 trauma centers, community or teaching hospitals. But because the former is better staffed, they say, patients who suffer head injuries on weekends should be taken to and treated at those facilities whenever possible.

Source: Medical News Today, "Head Trauma Patients More Likely To Die At Weekends," Aug. 7, 2012

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