Evaluation of the performance of French physician-staffed emergency medical service in the triage of major trauma patients

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2014 Jun;76(6):1476-83. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000000239.


Background: Proper prehospital triage of trauma patients is a cornerstone for the process of care of trauma patients. In France, emergency physicians perform this process according to a national triage algorithm called Vittel Triage Criteria (VTC), introduced in 2002 to help the triage decision-making process. The aim of this two-center study was to evaluate the performance of the triage process based on the VTC to identify major trauma patients in the Paris area.

Methods: This was a retrospective analysis of two cohorts. The first cohort consisted of all patients admitted between January 2011 and September 2012 in two trauma referral centers in the region of Paris (Ile de France) and allowed estimation of overtriage. Undertriage was assessed in a second cohort made up of all prehospital trauma interventions from one emergency medicine sector during the same period. Adequate triage was defined by a direct admission of patients with an Injury Severity Score (ISS) greater than 15 into one of the regional trauma centers, and undertriage was defined as an initial nonadmission to a trauma center. Overtriage was defined by an admission of patients with an ISS of 15 or lower to a trauma center. The performance of the VTC was evaluated according to a strict to-the-letter application of the VTC and termed as theoretical triage. Logistic regression was performed to identify VTC criteria able to predict major trauma.

Results: Among 998 admitted patients of the first cohort, 173 patients (17%) were excluded because they were not directly admitted in the first 24 hours. In the first cohort (n = 825), adequate triage was 58% and overtriage was 42%. In the second cohort (n = 190), adequate triage was 40%, overtriage was 60%, and undertriage was less than 1%. Theoretical triage generated a nonsignificantly lower overtriage and a higher undertriage compared with observed triage. The most powerful predictors of major trauma were paralysis (odds ratio [OR,] 0.09; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.03-0.22), flail chest (OR, 0.1; 95% CI, 0.01-0.03), and Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of less than 13 (OR, 0.28; 95% CI, 0.17-0.45), whereas global assessments of speed and mechanism alone were poor predictors (positive likelihood ratio, 0.92-1.4).

Conclusion: In the Paris area, the French physician-based prehospital triage system for patients with suspicion of major trauma showed a high rate of overtriage and a low rate of undertriage. Criteria of global assessment of speed and mechanism alone were poor predictors of major trauma.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms*
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards*
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multiple Trauma / therapy*
  • Physicians / supply & distribution*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Trauma Centers* / standards
  • Triage / organization & administration*
  • Workforce