Redefining the Trauma Triage Matrix: The Role of Emergent Interventions

J Surg Res. 2020 Jul;251:195-201. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2019.11.011. Epub 2020 Mar 10.


Background: A tiered trauma team activation (TTA) system aims to allocate resources proportional to the patient's need based upon injury burden. The current metrics used to evaluate appropriateness of TTA are the trauma triage matrix (TTM), need for trauma intervention (NFTI), and secondary triage assessment tool (STAT).

Materials and methods: In this retrospective study, we compared the effectiveness of the need for an emergent intervention within 6 h (NEI-6) with existing definitions. Data from the Michigan Trauma Quality Improvement Program was utilized. The dataset contains information from 31 level 1 and 2 trauma centers from 2011 to 2017. Inclusion criteria were: adult patients (≥16 y) and ISS ≥5.

Results: 73,818 patients were included in the study. Thirty percentage of trauma patients met criteria for STAT, 21% for NFTI, 20% for TTM, and 13% for NEI-6. NEI-6 was associated with the lowest rate of undertriage at 6.5% (STAT 22.3%, NFTI 14.0%, TTM 14.3%). NEI-6 best predicted undertriage mortality, early mortality, in-hospital mortality, and late (>60 h) mortality. Most patients who met criteria for TTM (58%), NFTI (51%), and STAT (62%) did not require emergent intervention. All four methods had similar rates of early mortality for patients who did not meet criteria (0.3%-0.5%).

Conclusions: NEI-6 performs better than TTM, NFTI, and STAT in terms of undertriage, mortality and need for resource utilization. Other methods resulted in significantly more full TTAs than NEI-6 without identifying patients at risk for early mortality. NEI-6 represents a novel tool to determine trauma activation appropriateness.

Keywords: Activation; Emergent; Intervention; Matrix; Overtriage; Trauma; Triage; Undertriage.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Trauma Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Triage / methods*
  • Triage / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality*
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy