Respiratory rate as a prehospital triage tool in rural trauma

Hans Husum, Mads Gilbert, Torben Wisborg, Yang Van Heng, Mudhafar Murad
Journal of Trauma 2003, 55 (3): 466-70

BACKGROUND: Where trauma systems do not exist, such as in low-income countries, the aim of prehospital triage is identification of trauma victims with high priority for forward resuscitation. The present pilot study explored the accuracy of simple prehospital triage tools in the hands of nongraduate trauma care providers in the minefields of North Iraq and Cambodia.

METHODS: Prehospital prediction of trauma death and major trauma victims (Injury Severity Score > 15) was studied in 737 adult patients with penetrating injuries and long evacuation times (mean, 6.1 hours).

RESULTS: Both the respiratory rate and the full Physiologic Severity Score predicted trauma death with high accuracy (area under the curve for receiver-operating characteristic plots at 0.9) and significantly better than other physiologic indicators. The accuracy in major trauma victim identification was moderate for all physiologic indicators (area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve, 0.7-0.8).

CONCLUSION: Respiratory rate > 25 breaths/min may be a useful triage tool for nongraduate trauma care providers where the scene is chaotic and evacuations long. Further studies on larger cohorts are necessary to validate the results.

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