Trauma team activation criteria as predictors of patient disposition from the emergency department

Acad Emerg Med. 2004 Jan;11(1):1-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2004.tb01364.x.


Many trauma centers use mainly physiologic, first-tier criteria and mechanism-related, second-tier criteria to determine whether and at what level to activate a multidisciplinary trauma team in response to an out-of-hospital call. Some of these criteria result in a large number of unnecessary team activations while identifying only a few additional patients who require immediate operative intervention.

Objectives: To separately evaluate the incremental predictive value of individual first-tier and second-tier trauma team activation criteria for severe injury as reflected by patient disposition from the emergency department (ED).

Methods: This was a prospective cohort study in which activation criteria were collected prospectively on all adult patients for whom the trauma team was activated during a five-month period at an urban, Level 1 trauma center. Severe injury disposition ("appropriate" team activation) was defined as immediate operative intervention, admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), or death in the ED. Data analysis consisted of recursive partitioning and multiple logistic regression.

Results: Of the 305 activations for the mainly physiologic first-tier criteria, 157 (51.5%) resulted in severe injury disposition. The first-tier criterion that caused the greatest increase in "inappropriate" activations for the lowest increase in "appropriate" activations was "age > 65." Of the 34 additional activations due to this criterion, seven (20.6%) resulted in severe injury disposition. Of the 700 activations for second-tier, mechanism-related criteria, 54 (7.7%) resulted in ICU or operating room admissions, and none resulted in ED death. The four least predictive second-tier criteria were "motorcycle crash with separation of rider," "pedestrian hit by motor vehicle," "motor vehicle crash with rollover," and "motor vehicle crash with death of occupant." Of the 452 activations for these four criteria, only 18 (4.0%) resulted in ICU or operating room admission.

Conclusions: The four least predictive second-tier, mechanism-related criteria added little sensitivity to the trauma team activation rule at the cost of substantially decreased specificity, and they should be modified or eliminated. The first-tier, mainly physiologic criteria were all useful in predicting the need for an immediate multidisciplinary response. If increased specificity of the first-tier criteria is desired, the first criterion to eliminate is "age > 65."

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / classification
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Hospitals, Urban / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Operating Rooms / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Care Team / standards
  • Patient Care Team / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Prospective Studies
  • San Francisco / epidemiology
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Traumatology / standards*
  • Triage / methods
  • Triage / standards*
  • Wounds and Injuries / classification*
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy