Adult Trauma Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Case-Control Study to Evaluate Disparities After Injury

Christopher J. McLaughlin, Patra Childress, Scott B. Armen, Steven R. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Adult trauma patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have distinct care needs that have not been previously described. We hypothesized that due to differences in clinical care and disposition issues, injured adults with ASD would have increased lengths of stay, higher mortality, and increased rates of complications compared to adults without ASD. Methods: The Pennsylvania Trauma Outcomes Study database was queried from 2010-2018 for trauma patients with ASD. Case-control matching was performed for two controls per ASD patient accounting for age, gender, injury mechanism, and injury severity score. Primary outcomes included length of stay, mortality, and complication rate. Univariate analysis compared presentation and clinical care between the two groups. Multivariate regression and Kaplan-Meier curves modeled length of stay. Significance was defined as p < 0.05. Results: A total of 185 patients with ASD were matched to 370 controls. Age (mean +/- standard deviation) was 33.4 +/- 16.5 years. Gender was 81.1% male. Mechanisms were 88.1% blunt, 5.9% penetrating, and 5.9% burns. Significant clinical differences identified in patients with ASD vs. case-controls included presenting verbal GCS (median [IQR]) (5 [2] vs. 5 [0], p < 0.01), proportion of patients intubated at presentation (20.0% vs. 13.0%, p = 0.031), and hospital length of stay (4 [6] days vs. 3 [4] days, p = 0.002). Adult patients with ASD were less likely to be discharged home and more often discharged to a skilled nursing facility (p < 0.01). There were no differences in mortality, rates of complications, imaging, or operations. Multivariate regression analysis controlling for demographic and clinical differences revealed the diagnosis of ASD independently contributed 3.13 days (95% Confidence Interval: 1.85 to 4.41 days) to injured adults’ length of stay. Kaplan-Meier curves showed injured patients with ASD were less likely to be discharged than case-controls starting from time of admission (log rank test, p < 0.001). Conclusions: This statewide analysis suggests injured patients with ASD have increased lengths of stay without other clinical or outcome differences. Given significant differences in discharge destination, these findings support early involvement of a multidisciplinary care collaborative. Further research is needed to identify factors that contribute to disparities in care for adults with ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3327-3333
Number of pages7
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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