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What is the study about?

Establishing common data elements (CDEs) is important for promoting, sharing, and standardizing data collection. Data elements refer to the words, questions, or concepts that are used in research studies to describe the data being gathered. The adoption of CDEs in research is important as it helps researchers compare different research studies and conduct literature reviews. There is currently no set of CDEs available for all trauma populations. This study aims to examine the degree of common data collection among five trauma databases.

What did the study find?

Inconsistencies were found in the thirty data elements examined across the five trauma databases. Only fourteen of the thirty data elements were present in all five databases. Twelve of these fourteen data elements exhibited differences in data values, otherwise known as answer choices.

Who participated in the study?

Human subjects were not required for this study.

How was the study conducted?

To determine the common elements, the data element descriptions and definitions (data dictionary) of the five trauma databases were examined. This study included two acute (short-term) care databases and three longitudinal (long-term) trauma databases. Data elements and values were compared across all databases and variations in the data were identified to emphasize meaningful differences between datasets.

How can people use the results?

Trauma patients and their families can use these results to help them understand the important role data plays in trauma research. Clinicians can use the results of this study as a call to action for establishing CDEs for all trauma populations.


Simko, L. C., Chen, L., Amtmann, D., Gibran, N., Herndon, D., Kowalske, K., . . . Ryan, C. M. (2019). Challenges to the Standardization of Trauma Data Collection in Burn, Traumatic Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury, and Other Trauma Populations: A Call for Common Data Elements for Acute and Longitudinal Trauma Databases. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 100(5), 891-898. doi:10.1016/j.apmr.2018.10.004


The contents of this quick review were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90DPKT0009). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this quick review do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.