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Validation of New Trauma Triage Rules for Trauma Attending Response to the Emergency Department

Tinkoff, Glen H. MD; O’Connor, Robert E. MD, MPH

The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care: June 2002 - Volume 52 - Issue 6 - p 1153-1159
Original Articles

Introduction  The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma has suggested triage criteria for the immediate attendance of a trauma surgeon to an injured patient in the emergency department. This study validates the accuracy of these criteria in identifying high-risk trauma patients and assesses the impact of trauma surgeon response time.

Methods  A study group of trauma patients with a systolic blood pressure (SBP) < 90 mm Hg, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score < 8, airway compromise managed with endotracheal intubation (ETI) or surgical airway, or gunshot wound (GSW) to the neck or torso were compared with a control group of patients meeting none of these criteria. Outcome measurements included Injury Severity Score (ISS), duration of hospitalization (length of stay [LOS]), intensive care unit (ICU) days, direct transfer to the ICU or operating room, and mortality. For the study group, trauma surgeon response times, ≤ 15 minutes and > 15 minutes, were compared for age, ISS, LOS, ICU days, mortality, and direct transfer to the ICU or operating room. Statistical analysis was performed using the t test and the Yates-corrected χ2 test (p < 0.05), with odds ratios calculated on the basis of trauma activation criteria and outcome measures. Multiple logistic regression was used to assess the relation between the independent variables SBP, GCS, ETI, and GSW with direct transfer to the ICU or operating room and mortality.

Results  A total of 4,910 patients were identified, including 791 study group patients. The mean ISS, LOS, ICU days, and mortality were significantly higher in the study group (p < 0.01). Odds ratios of the study group for direct transfer to the ICU or operating room were 91 and 2 for ETI, 23 and 1.4 for GCS score < 8, 8 and 2.2 for GSW, and 7 and 1.6 for SBP < 90 mm Hg, respectively. The odds ratios for mortality were 39 for ETI, 104 for GCS score < 8, 12 for GSW, and 74 for SBP < 90 mm Hg. Regression analysis demonstrated that GSW, SBP < 90 mm Hg, and ETI predicted ICU admission; GSW, SBP < 90 mm Hg, and ETI predicted operative intervention; and GCS score < 8, SBP < 90 mm Hg, and ETI were associated with mortality. Trauma surgeon response times were available for 658 (83%) of the study group patients. No significant differences were found between the two response groups.

Conclusion  Trauma patients meeting the triage criteria proposed by the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma have more severe injuries, a higher mortality rate, and longer hospital and ICU stays than control patients. SBP < 90 mm Hg, ETI, and GSW are predictive of urgent operating room use and ICU admission. A significantly higher mortality rate is associated with SBP < 90 mm Hg, ETI, and GCS score < 8. Incorporating these criteria into trauma center triage rules to identify high-risk injured patients is warranted. However, trauma surgeon response time ≤ 15 minutes was not associated with improved patient outcome, and optimal response time remains uncertain.

From the Departments of Surgery (G.H.T.) and Emergency Medicine (R.E.O.), Christiana Care Health System, Newark, Delaware.

Submitted for publication February 16, 2001.

Accepted for publication February 22, 2002.

Presented at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma, January 10–13, 2001, Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Address for reprints: Glen H. Tinkoff, MD, Suite 2121, MAP 2, 4735 Ogletown-Stanton Road, Newark, DE 19713.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.