Triage and treatment tools for use in a scarce resources-crisis standards of care setting after a nuclear detonation

Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2011 Mar;5 Suppl 1:S111-21. doi: 10.1001/dmp.2011.22.


Based on background information in this special issue of the journal, possible triage recommendations for the first 4 days following a nuclear detonation, when response resources will be limited, are provided. The series includes: modeling for physical infrastructure damage; severity and number of injuries; expected outcome of triage to immediate, delayed, or expectant management; resources required for treating injuries of varying severity; and how resource scarcity (particularly medical personnel) worsens outcome. Four key underlying considerations are: 1.) resource adequacy will vary greatly across the response areas by time and location; 2.) to achieve fairness in resource allocation, a common triage approach is important; 3.) at some times and locations, it will be necessary to change from "conventional" to "contingency" or "crisis" standards of medical care (with a resulting change in triage approach from treating the "sickest first" to treating those "most likely to survive" first); and 4.) clinical reassessment and repeat triage are critical, as resource scarcity worsens or improves. Changing triage order and conserving and allocating resources for both lifesaving and palliative care can maintain fairness, support symptomatic care, and save more lives. Included in this article are printable triage cards that reflect our recommendations. These are not formal guidelines. With new research, data, and discussion, these recommendations will undoubtedly evolve.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cities
  • Comorbidity
  • Disaster Planning
  • Humans
  • Nuclear Weapons*
  • Radiation Injuries / diagnosis
  • Radiation Injuries / therapy*
  • Radioactive Hazard Release*
  • Resource Allocation*
  • Standard of Care
  • Terrorism
  • Triage / methods*
  • Urban Population