The Costs of Interfacility Transfers for Nonurgent Pediatric Supracondylar Fractures

Charles Mechas, Ryan Mayer, Henry Iwinski, Scott A. Riley, Vishwas Talwalkar, Vincent Prusick, Janet L. Walker, Ryan D. Muchow, Elizabeth Hubbard, David Zuelzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Unnecessary transfers of nonemergent pediatric musculoskeletal injuries to regional trauma centers can be costly. The severity of fracture displacement in supracondylar humerus fractures dictates the risk of complications, the urgency of transfer and the need for surgical treatment. The purpose of this study is to examine the transfer patterns of Gartland type II pediatric supracondylar humerus fractures to identify strategies for improving patient care, improving health care system efficiency, and reducing costs. We hypothesize that there will be a high rate of unnecessary, emergent transfers resulting in increased cost. Methods: We retrospectively identified all pediatric patients that underwent treatment for a supracondylar humerus fracture between 2013 and 2018. Patient demographics, injury characteristics, chronological data, and surgical data were collected and analyzed from ambulance run sheets, transferring hospital records, and electronic medical records. Transfer distances were estimated using Google-Maps, while transfer costs were estimated using Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standard mileage rates and the American Ambulance Association Medicare Rate Calculator. A student t test was used to evaluate different treatment groups. Results: Sixty-two patients had available and complete transfer data, of which 44 (71%) patients were safely transferred via private vehicle an average distance of 51.8 miles, and 18 (29%) patients were transferred via ambulance on an average distance of 55.6 miles (P=0.76). The average transfer time was 4.1 hours by private vehicle, compared with 3.9 hours by ambulance (P=0.56). The average estimated cost of transportation was $28.23 by private vehicle, compared with $647.83 by ambulance (P=0.0001). On average, it took 16.1 hours after injury to undergo surgery and 25.7 hours to be discharged from the hospital, without a significant difference in either of these times between groups. There were no preoperative or postoperative neurovascular deficits. Conclusion: Patients with isolated Gartland type II supracondylar humerus fractures that are transferred emergently via ambulance are subjected to a significantly greater financial burden with no demonstrable improvement in the quality of their care, since prior research has shown these injuries can safely be treated on an outpatient basis. Potential options to help limit costs could include greater provider education, telemedicine and improved coordination of care. Level of Evidence: Level III (retrospective comparative study).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E727-E731
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. All rights reserved.


  • fracture
  • humerus
  • supracondylar
  • transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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