Do pre-hospital trauma alert criteria predict the severity of injury and a need for an emergent surgical intervention?

Guy Lin, Alexander Becker, Mauricio Lynn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Objective: Efficient triage may have a major influence on mortality and morbidity as well as financial consequences. A continuous effort to improve this decision making process and update the trauma alert criteria is being made. However, criteria for determining the evacuation priority are not well developed. We performed a prospective study to evaluate which pre-hospital parameters identify major trauma victims with an emphasis on a need for emergent surgical procedures. Methods: A prospective cohort included 601 patients admitted to a level one trauma centre over a three months period. The pre-hospital trauma alert criteria were recorded and set as independent variables. All major surgical procedures were graded in real time as: emergent, urgent, or not urgent. The ISS was calculated after completion of all the diagnostic workup. Patients were classified as major trauma victims if their calculated ISS was 16 or greater, and those needed an urgent intervention or intensive care. The relative risks (RR) for major trauma and a need for an emergent operation were calculated. Results: 243 (40%) patients were classified as having a major trauma. 39 (6.5%) patients required an emergent operative intervention: 24 for an active bleeding, 5 for a pericardial tamponade and 10 for an imminent cerebral herniation. Paramedic judgement and a penetrating injury to the trunk were the most common causes for over triage. However, a penetrating injury to the trunk had been the only clue that the victim needed an emergent operation in five cases. 128 patients had a pre-hospital Glasgow coma score (GCS) ≤12. Altered mental status was the most common and a significant predictor of both major trauma (RR of 3.00 with a 95% confidence interval (CI) of 1.98-4.53) and a need for an emergent operation (RR, 95% CI: 4.43, 2.28-8.58). Also, a systolic blood pressure ≤90 mmHg was highly associated with an emergent operation (RR, 95% CI: 11.69, 5.85-23.36). Conclusion: For determining the evacuation priority, we suggest a triage system based on three major criteria: mental status, hypotension and a penetrating injury to the trunk. Overall, the set of trauma alert criteria system can be further simplified and enable better utilisation of resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1381-1385
Number of pages5
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Emergent surgical intervention
  • Evacuation priority
  • Trauma alert criteria
  • Triage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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