The head injuries were more likely to be fatal even if they were less severe or the patient had fewer comorbidities than someone similarly hospitalized on a weekday, the study found.
The results, which were published online in the Journal of Surgical Research, echoed what is already a well-known “weekend effect” in heart attack, stroke and aneurism care.
“There isn't a medical reason for worse results on weekends,” said Eric Schneider, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research, in the release. “It's more likely a difference in how hospitals operate over the weekend as opposed to during the week, meaning that there may be a real opportunity for hospitals to change how they operate and save lives.”
The study suggested that weekend care may suffer from reduced staffing levels, including a lack of immediate access to specialists.
Johns Hopkins researchers looked at data from 2006 to 2008 for head trauma patients between the ages of 65 and 89. About 25.6% of injuries occurred on weekends.
The review found that patients admitted on the weekend were 14% more likely to die from their injuries. There was no difference in the cost of care, suggesting that patients received similar treatments.
The study could not determine whether there was a delay in care or whether the type of facility—whether teaching or community hospital—played a role in outcomes.