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Major incident triage and the evaluation of the Triage Sort as a secondary triage method


Introduction A key principle in the effective management of major incidents is triage, the process of prioritising patients on the basis of their clinical acuity. In many countries including the UK, a two-stage approach to triage is practised, with primary triage at the scene followed by a more detailed assessment using a secondary triage process, the Triage Sort. To date, no studies have analysed the performance of the Triage Sort in the civilian setting. The primary aim of this study was to determine the performance of the Triage Sort at predicting the need for life-saving intervention (LSI).

Methods Using the Trauma Audit Research Network (TARN) database for all adult patients (>18 years) between 2006 and 2014, we determined which patients received one or more LSIs using a previously defined list. The first recorded hospital physiology was used to categorise patient priority using the Triage Sort, National Ambulance Resilience Unit (NARU) Sieve and the Modified Physiological Triage Tool-24 (MPTT-24). Performance characteristics were evaluated using sensitivity and specificity with statistical analysis using a McNemar’s test.

Results 127 233patients (58.1%) had complete data and were included: 55.6% men, aged 61.4 (IQR 43.1–80.0 years), ISS 9 (IQR 9–16), with 24 791 (19.5%) receiving at least one LSI (priority 1). The Triage Sort demonstrated the lowest accuracy of all triage tools at identifying the need for LSI (sensitivity 15.7% (95% CI 15.2 to 16.2) correlating with the highest rate of under-triage (84.3% (95% CI 83.8 to 84.8), but it had the greatest specificity (98.7% (95% CI 98.6 to 98.8).

Conclusion Within a civilian trauma registry population, the Triage Sort demonstrated the poorest performance at identifying patients in need of LSI. Its use as a secondary triage tool should be reviewed, with an urgent need for further research to determine the optimum method of secondary triage.

  • major incidents, epidemiology
  • prehospital care, major incident/planning
  • triage

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