Evaluation of American College of Surgeons trauma triage criteria in a suburban and rural setting

Am J Emerg Med. 1996 Mar;14(2):124-9. doi: 10.1016/S0735-6757(96)90117-5.


In suburban and rural counties, patient transport to specialized facilities such as trauma centers may result in prolonged transport times with the resultant loss of ambulance coverage in the primary service area. We evaluated the American College of Surgeons trauma triage criteria as modified by New York State to determine the ability of these criteria to predict the need for trauma center care in victims of blunt traumatic injury. Blunt trauma patients were retrospectively identified through review of patient care reports for the presence either of mechanism or of physiological criteria for transport to a trauma center. Controls were randomly selected from patients with blunt trauma not meeting any of the criteria. Main outcome parameters were the emergency department (ED) disposition, length of hospital stay, need for intensive care unit (ICU) care, and major nonorthopedic operative interventions. There were 857 patients enrolled. The presence either of mechanism or of physiological criteria increased the likelihood of hospital admission (control, 11%; mechanism, 35%; and physiological, 33%). Relative to patients without any criteria, the presence of mechanism criteria alone did not identify patients who required a prolonged length of stay (67% vs 71%), intensive care unit services (13% vs 19%) or major nonorthopedic operative interventions (0.2% vs 1.6%). The presence of physiological criteria increased the likelihood of requiring all of these services. These comparisons held true for victims of motor vehicle accidents, pedestrians struck by motor vehicles, and people who fell from heights above ground level. Patients with physiologic criteria may benefit from transport directly to a trauma center. Because of the low need for operative intervention and ICU services, patients with no criteria or mechanism criteria at long distances from a trauma center may be initially evaluated at the closest hospital and transferred to a trauma center if hospitalization or ICU care is necessary. Further study to determine the predictive value of certain individual mechanism criteria is warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • New York
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Societies, Medical
  • Suburban Health Services*
  • Triage / standards*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / therapy*