Background: Trauma team activation protocols should ideally minimize the undertriage of seriously injured patients and eliminate unnecessary activations for those patients that do not require hospitalization. This study examined which physiologic parameter(s) most reliably predicted the need for hospitalization after motor vehicle collisions (MVCs).
Methods: A prehospital triage tool using standard physiologic parameters was developed and prospectively analyzed for reliability in predicting subsequent patient admission at a Level II trauma center after MVCs. Data were collected on 4,014 consecutive patients, 2,880 (72%) of whom had all of the physiologic parameters reported and recorded. Patients who arrived in extremis, who were dead on arrival, or who died shortly after arrival despite appropriate trauma team activation were ineligible for the study. Multivariate stepwise logistic regression analysis was used to determine which parameters were associated with hospital admission.
Results: The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score was the only prehospital physiologic parameter providing a clinically identifiable difference between those patients admitted (13 +/- 4) and those discharged to home (15 +/- 0.5) (mean + SD) (relative risk for hospitalization, 2.24; 95% confidence interval, 1.86-2.70 for GCS score < 14).
Conclusion: The prehospital GCS score is a reliable physiologic parameter for predicting hospital admission after MVC. When obvious indicators (hypoxemia, multiple long bone fractures, focal neurologic deficits) for trauma team activation are lacking, the prehospital GCS score may be used to reduce overtriage and undertriage rates.