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Glasgow Coma Scale is unreliable for the prediction of severe head injury in elderly trauma patients
  1. A Kehoe1,
  2. S Rennie1,
  3. J E Smith1,2
  1. 1Emergency Department, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, UK
  2. 2Academic Department of Military Emergency Medicine, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (Research & Academia), Medical Directorate, Joint Medical Command, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr J E Smith, Emergency Department, Derriford Hospital, Derriford Road Plymouth PL6 8DH, UK; jasonesmith{at}


Objectives and background Elderly patients comprise an ever-increasing proportion of major trauma patients. The presenting GCS in elderly patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) may not reflect the severity of injury as accurately as it does in the younger patient population. However, GCS is often used as part of the decision tool to define the population transferred directly to a major trauma centre. The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between age and presenting GCS in patients with isolated TBI.

Methods A retrospective database review was undertaken using the Trauma Audit and Research Network database. All patients presenting to Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, between 1 January 2009 and 31 May 2014 with isolated TBI were included. Demographic, mechanistic, physiological, resource use and outcome data were collected. Abbreviated injury scale (AIS) was recorded for all patients. Patients were categorised into those older and younger than 65 years on presentation. Distribution of GCS, categorised into severe (GCS 3–8), moderate (GCS 9–12) and mild TBI (13–15), was compared between the age groups. Median GCS at each AIS level was also compared.

Results The distribution of GCS differed between young and old patients with TBI (22.1% vs 9.8% had a GCS 3–8, respectively) despite a higher burden of anatomical injury in the elderly group. Presenting GCS was higher in the elderly at each level of AIS. The difference was more apparent in the presence of more severe injury (AIS 5).

Conclusions Elderly patients who have sustained isolated severe TBI may present with a higher GCS than younger patients. Triage tools using GCS may need to be modified and validated for use in elderly patients with TBI.

  • aged
  • triage
  • clinical assessment
  • Trauma, head

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