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Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing: Burden of Transient Noncritical Monitor Alarms in a Trauma Resuscitation Unit

Colton, Katharine BA; Dinardo, Theresa RN, MSN, CCRN; Hu, Peter F. PhDc; Xiong, Wei PhD; Hu, Eric Z. MS; Reed, George BA; DuBose, Joseph J. MD; Stansbury, Lynn G. MD, MPH; Mackenzie, Colin F. MD; Chiu, William C. MD; Miller, Catriona PhD; Fang, Raymond MD; Stein, Deborah M. MD, MPH; Scalea, Thomas M. MDthe ONPOINT Study Group

doi: 10.1097/JTN.0000000000000010

We examined the types of patient monitor alarms encountered in the trauma resuscitation unit of a major level 1 trauma center. Over a 1-year period, 316688 alarms were recorded for 6701 trauma patients (47 alarms/patient). Alarms were more frequent among patients with a Glasgow Coma Scale of 8 or less. Only 2.4% of all alarms were classified as “patient crisis,” with the rest in the presumably less critical categories “patient advisory,” “patient warning,” and “system warning.” Nearly half of alarms were ≤5 seconds in duration. In this patient population, a 2-second delay would reduce alarms by 25%, and a delay of 5 seconds would reduce all alarms by 49%.

Shock Trauma Anesthesia Research Organized Research Center, University of Maryland School of Medicine and R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, Baltimore, Maryland.

Correspondence: Joseph J. DuBose, MD, Baltimore, University of Maryland Medical System and R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, 22 South Greene Street, T5R46, Baltimore, MD 21201 (

Presented, in part, at the Military Health System Research Symposium, August 16, 2012, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The ONPOINT Study Group: Amechi Anazodo, Steven Barker, John Blenko, Patrick Boyle, Chein-I Chang, Hegang Chen, Theresa Dinardo, Joseph DuBose, Raymond Fang, Yvette Fouche, Lisa Gettings, Linda Goetz, Tom Grissom, Victor Guistina, George Hagegeorge, Anthony Herrera, John Hess, Peter Hu, Cris Imle, Matthew Lissauer, Colin Mackenzie, Jay Menaker, Karen Murdock, Mayur Narayan Tim Oates, Sarah Saccicchio, Thomas Scalea, Stacy Shackelford, Robert Sikorski, Lynn Smith, Lynn Stansbury, Deborah Stein, and Chris Stephens.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2013 by the Society of Trauma Nurses.