What is the effect of the weather on trauma workload? A systematic review of the literature.
Ali AM., Willett K.
BACKGROUND: Hospital admission rates for a number of conditions have been linked to variations in the weather. It is well established that trauma workload displays significant seasonal variation. A reliable predictive model might enable targeting of high-risk groups for intervention and planning of hospital staff levels. To our knowledge there have been no systematic reviews of the literature on the relationship between weather and trauma workload, and predictive models have thus far been informed by the results of single studies. METHODS: We conducted a systematic review of bibliographic databases and reference lists up to June 2014 to identify primary research papers assessing the effect of specified weather conditions including temperature, rainfall, snow, fog, hail, humidity and wind speed on trauma workload, defined as admission to hospital, fracture or a Road Traffic Accident (RTA) resulting in a seriously injured casualty or fatality. RESULTS: 11,083 papers were found through electronic and reference search. 83 full papers were assessed for eligibility. 28 met inclusion criteria and were included in the final review; 6 of these related to the effect of the weather on trauma admissions, one to ambulance call out for trauma, 13 to fracture rate and 8 to RTAs. Increased temperature is positively correlated with trauma admissions. The rate of distal radius fractures is more sensitive to adverse weather than the rate of hip fractures. Paediatric trauma, both in respect of trauma admissions and fracture rate, is more sensitive to the weather than adult trauma. Adverse weather influences both RTA frequency and severity, but the nature of the relationship is dependent upon the timecourse of the weather event and the population studied. Important methodological differences between studies limit the value of the existing literature in building consensus for a generalisable predictive model. CONCLUSIONS: Weather conditions may have a substantial effect on trauma workload independent of the effects of seasonal variation; the population studied and timecourse of weather events appear critical in determining this relationship. Methodological differences between studies limit the validity of conclusions drawn from analysis of the literature, and we identify a number of areas that future research might address.