The need for pediatric-specific triage criteria: results from the Florida Trauma Triage Study

Pediatr Emerg Care. 1996 Dec;12(6):394-9. doi: 10.1097/00006565-199612000-00002.


Objective: The objective of the Florida Trauma Triage Study was to assess the performance of state-adopted field triage criteria. The study addressed three specific age groups: pediatric (age < 15 years), adult (age 15-54 years), and geriatric (age 55+ years). Since 1990, Florida has used a uniform set of eight triage criteria, known as the trauma scorecard, for triaging adult trauma patients to state-approved trauma centers. However, only five of the criteria are recommended for use with pediatric patients. This article presents the findings regarding the performance of the scorecard when applied to a pediatric population.

Design: We used state trauma registry data linked to state hospital discharge data in a retrospective analysis of trauma patients transported by prehospital providers to any acute care hospital within nine selected Florida counties between July 1, 1991, and December 31, 1991. We used cross-table and logistic regression analysis to determine the ability of triage criteria to correctly identify patients who were retrospectively defined as major trauma. We applied the field criteria to physiologic and anatomy/mechanism of injury data contained in the trauma registry to "score" the patient as major or minor trauma. To make our retrospective determination of major or minor trauma we used the protocols developed by an expert medical panel as described by E. J. MacKenzie et al. (1990).

Main outcome measures: We calculated sensitivity, specificity, and the corresponding over- and undertriage rates by comparing patient classifications (major or minor trauma) produced by the triage criteria and the retrospective algorithm. We used logistic regression to identify which triage criteria were statistically significant in predicting major trauma.

Results: Pediatric cases accounted for 9.2% of the total study population, 6.0% of all hospitalized cases, and 6.8% of all trauma deaths. Of the 1505 pediatric cases available for analysis, the triage criteria classified 269 cases as expected major trauma and 1236 cases as expected minor trauma. The retrospective algorithm classified 78 cases as expected major trauma and 1427 cases as expected minor trauma. The resulting specificity is 84.8% (15.2% overtriage), and the sensitivity is 66.7% (33.3% undertriage). Logistic regression indicated that, of the eight state-adopted field triage criteria, only the Glasgow coma score, ejection from vehicle, and penetrating injuries have a statistically significant impact on predicting major trauma in pediatric patients.

Conclusions: Although the state-adopted trauma scorecard, applied to a pediatric population, produced acceptable overtriage, it did not produce acceptable undertriage. However, our undertriage rate is comparable to the results of other published studies on pediatric trauma. As a result of the Florida Trauma Triage Study, a new pediatric triage instrument was developed. It is currently being field-tested.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Florida
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Pediatrics / standards*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Triage / standards*
  • Triage / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds and Injuries / classification*