Comparison of the 1999 and 2006 trauma triage guidelines: where do patients go?

Prehosp Emerg Care. 2011 Jan-Mar;15(1):12-7. doi: 10.3109/10903127.2010.519819. Epub 2010 Nov 5.


Background: In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a revised Field Triage Decision Scheme. It is unknown how this modified scheme will affect the number of patients identified by emergency medical services (EMS) for transport to a trauma center.

Objectives: To determine the change in the number of patients transported by EMS who meet the 2006 scheme, compared with the 1999 scheme, and to determine how the scheme change would affect under- and overtriage rates.

Methods: The EMS providers in charge of care for injured adult patients transported to a regional trauma center in three mid-sized cities were interviewed immediately after completing transport. All injured patients were included, regardless of severity. The interview included patient demographics, vital signs, apparent anatomic injury, and the mechanism of injury. Included patients were then followed through hospital discharge. The 1999 and 2006 scheme criteria were each retrospectively applied to the collected data. The numbers of patients identified by the two schemes were determined. Patients were considered to have needed a trauma center if they had nonorthopedic surgery within 24 hours, were admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU), or died. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics including 95% confidence intervals.

Results: EMS interviews were conducted for 11,892 patients and outcome data were unavailable for one patient. The average patient age was 48 years; 51% of the patients were men. Providers reported bringing 54% of the enrolled patients to the trauma center based on their local trauma protocol. Medical record review identified 12% of the enrolled patients as needing a trauma center. Use of the 2006 scheme would have resulted in 1,423 fewer patients (12%; 95% confidence interval [CI]:11%-13%) being identified as needing a trauma center by EMS providers (40%; 95% CI: 39%-41% versus 28%; 95% CI: 27%-29%). Of those patients, 1,344 (94%) did not actually need the resources of a trauma center, whereas 78 (6%) actually needed the resources of a trauma center and would have been undertriaged.

Conclusion: Use of the 2006 Field Triage Decision Scheme would have resulted in a significant decrease in the number of patients identified as needing the resources of a trauma center. These changes reduced overtriage while causing a small increase in the number of patients who would have been undertriaged.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Confidence Intervals
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Emergency Medical Technicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Trauma Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Triage / methods
  • Triage / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology