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Guidelines for the Field Triage of Injured Patients

Injuries affect all Americans.

They are the leading cause of death for children and adults from age 1 to 44 in the United States.

At the scene of an injury, Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals must identify the severity and type of injury, and determine which hospital or other facility would be the most appropriate to meet the needs of the patient. This is done through a process called “field triage.”

The profound importance of daily on-scene triage decisions made by EMS professionals is reinforced by CDC-supported research that shows that the overall risk of death was 25 percent lower when care was provided at a Level I trauma center than when it was provided at a non-trauma center.

Not all injured patients can or should be transported to a Level I trauma center. Other hospitals can effectively meet the needs of patients with less severe injuries, and may be closer to the scene. Transporting all injured patients to Level I centers—regardless of injury severity—limits the availability of Level I trauma center for those patients who really need the level of care provided at those facilities. Proper field triage ensures that patients are transported to the most appropriate healthcare facility that best matches their level of need.

In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published guidance on the field triage process in “Guidelines for Field Triage of Injured Patients, Recommendations of the National Expert Panel on Field Triage” in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Photo: medical badge

The updated Guidelines, published in the newly released MMWR reflect the results of the Panel’s deliberations and include changes made upon the best available evidence, and incorporate the experiential base that CDC has developed through its close work with states, national organizations, communities, and individual professionals.

The 2011 Guidelines for the Field Triage of the Injured Patient initiative is developed to give EMS leaders and professionals the tools they need to implement and adopt the 2011 Guidelines.

Download the “Guidelines for Field Triage of Injured Patients, Recommendations of the National Expert Panel on Field Triage, 2011” in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Continuing Education (CMEs, CNEs, CEUs)

  • Continuing Education Activity credit is available through CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR) Continuing Education Program. To access the report and take the course, visit: www.cdc.gov/mmwr/cme/serial_conted.html.

Educational and On the Job Tools for EMS Professionals

MMWR report MMWR Recommendations and Reports Guidelines for Field Triage of Injured Patients: Recommendations of the National Expert Panel on Field Triage

Field Triage smartphone applicationMobile App

2011 Guidelines for Field Triage of Injured Patients Course for EMS Professionals (Developed with the University of Michigan)

2011 Guidelines for Field Triage of Injured Patients Course for EMS Professionals

Directions to take the course:

  1. Go to www.traumaedu-lms.com
  2. Click on "New User? Sign up here" to create an account to preview the course
  3. Once you've created an account, go back to the www.traumaedu-lms.com web page
  4. Enable popup blocker on internet browser setting to enable the course to launch
  5. Login with your user information
  6. Click on Catalog
  7. Enroll in 2011 Guidelines for Field Triage of Injured Patients
  8. Click on computer icon to launch the course

Partner and Endorsing Organization Tools

Endorsing Organizations

(As of December 15, 2011)

Air Medical Physician Association

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

American Academy of Pediatrics

American Association of Critical-Care Nurses

American Association for Respiratory Care

American Association for the Surgery of Trauma

American Burn Association

American College of Emergency Physicians

American College of Osteopathic Surgeons

American College of Surgeons

American Medical Association

American Pediatric Surgical Association

American Public Health Association

American Trauma Society

Association of Air Medical Services

Association of Critical Care Transport

Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

Brain Trauma Foundation

Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Systems

Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma

Emergency Nurses Association

International Academies of Emergency Dispatch

International Association of Emergency Medical Services Chiefs

International Association of Fire Chiefs

International Association of Flight and Critical Care Paramedics

National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians

National Association of EMS Educators

National Association of EMS Physicians

National Association of State EMS Officials

National EMS Information System

National EMS Management Association

National Volunteer Fire Council

Safe States Alliance

Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Research

Society of Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants

Trauma Center Association of America

Western Trauma Association

Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical Services (comprising representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concurs with these Guidelines.

Related Links

  • MMWR Recommendations and Reports [PDF 1MB] 2006 Guidelines for Field Triage of Injured Patients: Recommendations of the National Expert Panel on Field Triage, January 29, 2009
  • EMS.gov Hosted by NHTSA EMS and developed to meet the varied needs of the EMS community with updates on Federal EMS initiatives and programs.

Field Triage Advances Motor Vehicle Crash Response

For more information about CDC’s efforts to develop evidence-based protocols for the emergency medical community to effectively use automotive telemetry data, visit http://www.cdc.gov/injuryresponse/aacn.html.

When in doubt, transport to a trauma center.

 
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