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Original Investigation
March 2018

Primary Palate Trauma in Patients Presenting to US Emergency Departments, 2006-2010

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis
  • 2School of Public Health, University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee
  • 3Division of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018;144(3):244-251. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2017.3071
Key Points

Question  What is the current incidence of and practice pattern for palate trauma in the emergency department?

Findings  In this database analysis of the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, among 22 094 patients with primary palate trauma, total hospital visits decreased from 1.58 per 100 000 people in 2006 to 1.26 per 100 000 people in 2010; most patients were aged 18 years or younger and discharged without undergoing head and neck imaging, while palate repair and mortality were rare. Factors associated with admission included complicated palate trauma, male sex, region, patient’s residence, and codiagnosis status; factors associated with imaging included patient’s residence, payment, and region.

Meaning  Although it is often suggested in the otolaryngology literature to perform imaging, primary palate trauma usually results in routine discharge without imaging.


Importance  The sequelae of palate trauma vary from minimal discomfort to major neurovascular injury. Infrequency of palate trauma and clinician unfamiliarity with the disease process may lead to variation in evaluation, treatment, and disposition in the emergency department (ED).

Objectives  To measure the incidence of primary palate trauma visits to US emergency departments with analysis of demographics, disposition, and repair and to determine frequency and factors associated with head and neck imaging.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A retrospective analysis using the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Emergency Department Sample was performed of 22 094 patients presenting to US emergency departments from 2006 to 2010 with a primary diagnosis of palate trauma. Data analysis was conducted from March 29, 2016, to November 18, 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures  National estimates of palate trauma were calculated from weights available within the database. Palate repair was identified by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification procedure codes. Imaging was calculated from reliable Current Procedural Terminology coding facilities identified using a previously published method. Logistic models were calculated to identify clinical associations for admission, imaging, and palate repair.

Results  A total of 22 094 patients (13 967 male and 8121 female patients, 6 missing data on sex; median age, 2.8 years [interquartile range, 1.1-6.1 years]) with primary palate trauma presented to US emergency departments during the study period. Total hospital visits decreased from 4715 (1.58 per 100 000 people) to 3915 (1.26 per 100 000 people) during the 5-year study period. A total of 19 819 patients (89.7%) had routine discharge from the hospital, while palate repair (965 [4.4%]) and mortality (34 [0.2%]) were rare. Complicated palate trauma (odds ratio [OR], 5.32; 95% CI, 3.10-9.15), male sex (OR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.11-2.21), codiagnosis status (OR, 2.75; 95% CI, 1.84-4.12), and residence in the Northeast vs South (OR, 2.73; 95% CI, 1.11-6.71) increased the likelihood of admission, which was infrequent (1027 patients [4.6%]). After restriction to reliable Current Procedural Terminology coding facilities, head and neck imaging occurred in 823 of 6897 patients (11.9%). Factors associated with head and neck imaging included living in a medium vs large metropolitan area (OR 1.62; 95% CI, 1.04-2.55), while living in the Midwest vs South region (OR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.25-0.74) had a negative association with imaging.

Conclusions and Relevance  Although it is often suggested in the otolaryngology literature to perform imaging, primary palate trauma usually results in a routine discharge home without imaging or repair. Imaging frequency should be noted since palate trauma could have life-threatening neurovascular sequelae, which presents an opportunity to define and promote optimal management for potential neurologic sequelae in the patients who were not imaged.