In-house versus on-call trauma surgeon coverage: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Alexander C.J. De La Mar*, Robin D. Lokerman, Job F. Waalwijk, Yassine Ochen, Quirine M.J. Van Der Vliet, Falco Hietbrink, R. Marijn Houwert, Luke P.H. Leenen, Mark Van Heijl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND A rapid trauma response is essential to provide optimal care for severely injured patients. However, it is currently unclear if the presence of an in-house trauma surgeon affects this response during call and influences outcomes. This study compares in-hospital mortality and process-related outcomes of trauma patients treated by a 24/7 in-house versus an on-call trauma surgeon. METHODS PubMed/Medline, Embase, and CENTRAL databases were searched on the first of November 2020. All studies comparing patients treated by a 24/7 in-house versus an on-call trauma surgeon were considered eligible for inclusion. A meta-analysis of mortality rates including all severely injured patients (i.e., Injury Severity Score of ≥16) was performed. Random-effect models were used to pool mortality rates, reported as risk ratios. The main outcome measure was in-hospital mortality. Process-related outcomes were chosen as secondary outcome measures. RESULTS In total, 16 observational studies, combining 64,337 trauma patients, were included. The meta-analysis included 8 studies, comprising 7,490 severely injured patients. A significant reduction in mortality rate was found in patients treated in the 24/7 in-house trauma surgeon group compared with patients treated in the on-call trauma surgeon group (risk ratio, 0.86; 95% confidence interval, 0.78-0.95; p = 0.002; I2 = 0%). In 10 of 16 studies, at least 1 process-related outcome improved after the in-house trauma surgeon policy was implemented. CONCLUSION A 24/7 in-house trauma surgeon policy is associated with reduced mortality rates for severely injured patients treated at level I trauma centers. In addition, presence of an in-house trauma surgeon during call may improve process-related outcomes. This review recommends implementation of a 24/7 in-house attending trauma surgeon at level I trauma centers. However, the final decision on attendance policy might depend on center and region-specific conditions. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Systematic review/meta-analysis, level III.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-444
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Attendance
  • Injury
  • Level I
  • Trauma center
  • Trauma surgeon


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