Objective: We sought to identify a scale or components of a scale that optimize detection of older adult traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients who require transport to a trauma center, regardless of mechanism.
Methods: We assembled a consensus panel consisting of nine experts in geriatric emergency medicine, prehospital medicine, trauma surgery, geriatric medicine, and TBI, as well as prehospital providers, to evaluate the existing scales used to identify TBI. We reviewed the relevant literature and solicited group feedback to create a list of candidate scales and criteria for evaluation. Using the nominal group technique, scales were evaluated by the expert panel through an iterative process until consensus was achieved.
Results: We identified 15 scales for evaluation. The panel's criteria for rating the scales included ease of administration, prehospital familiarity with scale components, feasibility of use with older adults, time to administer, and strength of evidence for their performance in the prehospital setting. After review and discussion of aggregated ratings, the panel identified the Simplified Motor Scale, GCS-Motor Component, and AVPU (alert, voice, pain, unresponsive) as the strongest scales, but determined that none meet all EMS provider and patient needs due to poor usability and lack of supportive evidence. The panel proposed that a dichotomized decision scheme that includes domains of the top-rated scales -level of alertness (alert vs. not alert) and motor function (obeys commands vs. does not obey) -may be more effective in identifying older adult TBI patients who require transport to a trauma center in the prehospital setting.
Conclusions: Existing scales to identify TBI are inadequate to detect older adult TBI patients who require transport to a trauma center. A new algorithm, derived from elements of previously established scales, has the potential to guide prehospital providers in improving the triage of older adult TBI patients, but needs further evaluation prior to use.
Keywords: brain injuries; emergency medical services; geriatrics; triage.