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Results of in-hospital triage in 17 mass casualty trainings: Underestimation of life-threatening injuries and need for re-triage

Christian Kleber, MD, Detlef Cwojdzinski, Markus Strehl, Stefan Poloczek, MD, MPH, Norbert P. Haas, MD


Background: In-hospital triage is the key factor for successful management of an overwhelming number of patients in lack of treatment capacity. The main goal of in-hospital triage is to identify casualties with life-threatening injuries and to allocate immediate medical aid. For the first time, we evaluate the quality of in-hospital triage in the German capital Berlin.
Methods: In this prospective observational study of 17 unheralded external mass casualty trainings for Berlin disaster hospitals in 2010/2011, we analyzed the in-hospital triage of 601 rouged casualty actors. Evaluation was performed by structured external survey and interview of the casualty actors after the disaster training. In 93 percent (n = 558), complete data were available and suitable for statistical analysis.
Results: The primary triage category was allocated correctly to 61 percent (n = 338) of the simulated injury severity. The following measurements were performed: anamnesis in 77 percent, physical examination 71 percent, blood pressure in 68 percent, heart rate in 61 percent, and oxygen saturation in 25 percent. Additive radiological diagnostics were used: 38 percent X-ray, 16 percent computer tomography, and 7 percent ultrasound. On an average, 1.6 ± 1.2 diagnostic tools were used to allocate injury severity to rouged casualties. Of all the rouged casualties, 24 percent overtriage and 16 percent undertriage were observed. Overtriage was significantly infrequent in level I trauma centers (p = 0.03). Of the patients with life-threatening injuries, 18 percent was undertriaged. Of the 62 percent with secondary right allocation to triage category, re-triage was only used in 4 percent.
Conclusion: The accuracy of in-hospital triage is low (61 percent). Predominately, the problem of overtriage (24 percent) due to insufficient triage training in contrast to undertriage (16 percent) occurs. The diagnostic triage adjuncts, ultrasound and re-triage, should be routinely used to lower the rate of undetected life threat in mass casualty incidents. Furthermore, a standardized training program and triage algorithm for in-hospital triage should be established.


disaster, triage, overtriage, undertriage, hospital

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