FacebookTwitterLinkedInGoogle+RSS Feed
Fire EMSEMS TodayEMS Insider

A Prehospital Triage Tool for Rural Systems


Review of:Purtill MA, Benedict K, Hernandez-Boussard T, et al: "Validation of a prehospital trauma triage tool: a 10-year perspective." Journal of Trauma 65(6):1253- 1257, 2008.

The Science

This study from Santa Cruz, Calif. is a rigorous attempt to validate a change in the way this EMS system triaged multiple trauma victims from the scene in rural areas. Their protocol was based on what they term "MAP" for mechanism, anatomy, and physiological changes found on triage. Their triage tool consisted of the following areas:

Mechanism of Injury

___High Impact

Specific High Impact Criteria

___Ejection of Patient

___Roll over

___Fatality in same vehicle

___Intrusion of MV into passenger compartment

___Extrication over 20 min

___Pedestrian hit at 20 mph or more

___Gunshot wound

___Stab Type wound

___Fall > 15 feet

___Submersion Injury (for pediatrics only)

Anatomic Injury (or Injuries)

___Significant Penetrating Injury

___Significant Blunt Injury


Specific Burn Criteria

___>10% Body in Children < 1 year

___>15% Body in all others

___Burns to Face/Mouth/Throat

___Singed Nasal Hair

___Respiratory Distress/Cough

___Deep Burns to hands/feet/perineum

___Neuro Injury

Specific Neuro Injury

___Sensory Loss

___Motor Deficit


Physiologic Criteria

____Glasgow Coma Score <11

___Inadequate Perfusion

___Respiratory Distress

___Unable to Determine Physiology (Pediatric <6)

Other Criteria

___Base Hospital Physician Judgment

___Patient "In extremis"

Prior to the study (control period), based-station medical control was contacted for approval for air medical transport of the patient to the trauma center. During the study period, there was no change in the triage tool. If patients met two or more criteria, the EMTs could summon the helicopter or transport directly to the trauma center without base station approval. If only one criterion was met, they could contact the based-station for approval to transport to the trauma center.

During the control period, there were 6,670 trauma patients. Based-station contact was made 95% of the time, and 7% of the patients were transported to the trauma center. During the study period, 8,414 trauma patients were encountered. Based-station contact was made for 39%, and 10% of the patients were transported to the trauma center.

An analysis of the patients who were transported to the trauma center revealed that 79% of the patients taken to the trauma center during the control period were determined to have multiple trauma as compared with 69% during the study period (p=N.S.). Of those patients not meeting triage criteria in the control period, 75% were later found to have multiple trauma -- compared to 69% during the study period.

This resulted in a triage tool with 93.8% sensitivity and 99.5% specificity with a marked reduction in the need for based-station contact.

The Street

This is a phenomenal study. The issue of prehospital trauma triage is one fraught with great controversy. This system is using a set of criteria that pre-dates the current criteria recently released by the American College of Surgeons (ACS), which focuses more on physiology and less on mechanism and anatomy. It hasn't been validated as this tool has been. The ACS states that an acceptable under-triage rate (one that misses the multiple trauma victim) is 5% while acceptable over-triage is 30%-50%. This system's tool resulted in an over-triage of 31%.

What was unclear was the number of patients who referred to the trauma center with only one criterion after based-station referral. An analysis of these patients would be interesting. Clearly, the elimination of based-station contact resulted in a very efficient system of rapidly moving these rural trauma victims from the scene.

No triage tool is perfect. The goal of any system is to adopt a tool that meets the resources of its region, is consistent with the science as we understand it, and doesn't over burden the trauma center with minor trauma -- all while keeping under-triage to a bare minimum and putting into place a mechanism to address any deficiencies in the system.


Medical Waste Not as Dangerous as its Stigma Suggests

Regulations are disproportionate to the risks involved.

How Illinois' Trauma and EMS System of Care Helped Shape the Industry

The modern era of EMS systems has been formed in large thanks to policies first developed in Illinois.

Understanding Why EMS Systems Fail

Learn to recognize trigger points that could ruin your system.

The Reasons Why EMS Systems Go Astray

Normalization of deviance doesn’t happen overnight.

LifeFlight’s Blood Transfusion Practices Affirmed by New Study

Research soon to be published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS) shows that airlifted trauma victims who receive blood transfusions in...

Christian Martin-Gill Presents on Prehospital Evidence-Based Guidelines at EMS Today

Christian Martin-Gill, MD, MPH, NREMT-P, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and associate medical director of STAT Med...

Features by Topic

JEMS Connect




Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

Featured Careers