Background: Natural disasters, conflict, and terrorism are major global causes of death and disability. Central to the healthcare response is triage, vital to ensure the right care is provided to the right patient at the right time. The ideal triage tool has high sensitivity for the highest priority (P1) patients with acceptably low over-triage. This study compared the performance of major incident triage tools in predicting P1 casualty status in adults in the prospective UK Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN) registry.
Methods: TARN patients aged 16+ years (January 2008-December 2017) were included. Ten existing triage tools were applied using patients' first recorded pre-hospital physiology. Patients were subsequently assigned triage categories (P1, P2, P3, Expectant or Dead) based on pre-defined, intervention-based criteria. Tool performance was assessed by comparing tool-predicted and intervention-based priority status.
Findings: 195,709 patients were included; mortality was 7·0% (n=13,601); median Injury Severity Score (ISS) was 9 (IQR 9-17); 97·1% sustained blunt injuries. 22,144 (11·3%) patients fulfilled intervention-based criteria for P1 status, exhibiting higher mortality (12·8% vs. 5·0%, p<0.001), increased intensive care requirement (52·4% vs 5·0%, p<0.001), and more severe injuries (median ISS 21 vs 9, p<0.001) compared with P2 patients.In 16-64 year olds, the highest performing tool was the Battlefield Casualty Drills (BCD) Triage Sieve (Prediction of P1 status: 70·4% sensitivity, over-triage 70·9%, area under the receiver operating curve (AUC) 0·068 [95%CI 0·676-0·684]). The UK National Ambulance Resilience Unit (NARU) Triage Sieve had sensitivity of 44·9%; over-triage 56·4%; AUC 0·666 (95%CI 0·662-0·670). All tools performed poorly amongst the elderly (65+ years).
Interpretation: The BCD Triage Sieve performed best in this nationally representative population; we recommend it supersede the NARU Triage Sieve as the UK primary major incident triage tool. Validated triage category definitions are recommended for appraising future major incidents.
Funding: This study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre. GVG also acknowledges support from the MRC Heath Data Research UK (HDRUK/CFC/01). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, or the Ministry of Defence.