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Emerg Med J. 2019 Feb;36(2):66-71. doi: 10.1136/emermed-2016-206382. Epub 2018 Oct 16.

A simple clinical assessment is superior to systematic triage in prediction of mortality in the emergency department.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Rigshospitalet, Kobenhavn, Denmark.
Department of Internal Medicine, Amager Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Anesthesia, Centre of Head and Orthopedics Surgery, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Cardiology, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Clinical Biochemistry, North Zealand Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Hillerød, Denmark.
Department of Emergency Medicine and Prehospital Care, Helsingborg Hospital, Helsingborg, Sweden.
Clinical Research Centre, University of Copenhagen, Hvidovre, Denmark.
Department of Cardiology, Herlev Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.



To compare the Danish Emergency Process Triage (DEPT) with a quick clinical assessment (Eyeball triage) as predictors of short-term mortality in patients in the emergency department (ED).


The investigation was designed as a prospective cohort study conducted at North Zealand University Hospital. All patient visits to the ED from September 2013 to December 2013 except minor injuries were included. DEPT was performed by nurses. Eyeball triage was a quick non-systematic clinical assessment based on patient appearance performed by phlebotomists. Both triage methods categorised patients as green (not urgent), yellow, orange or red (most urgent). Primary analysis assessed the association between triage level and 30-day mortality for each triage method. Secondary analyses investigated the relation between triage level and 48-hour mortality as well as the agreement between DEPT and Eyeball triage.


A total of 6383 patient visits were included. DEPT was performed for 6290 (98.5%) and Eyeball triage for 6382 (~100%) of the patient visits. Only patients with both triage assessments were included. The hazard ratio (HR) for 48-hour mortality for patients categorised as yellow was 0.9 (95% CI 0.4 to 1.9) for DEPT compared with 4.2 (95% CI 1.2 to 14.6) for Eyeball triage (green is reference). For orange the HR for DEPT was 2.2 (95% CI 1.1 to 4.4) and 17.1 (95% CI 5.1 to 57.1) for Eyeball triage. For red the HR was 30.9 (95% CI 12.3 to 77.4) for DEPT and 128.7 (95% CI 37.9 to 436.8) for Eyeball triage. For 30-day mortality the HR for patients categorised as yellow was 1.7 (95% CI 1.2 to 2.4) for DEPT and 2.4 (95% CI 1.6 to 3.5) for Eyeball triage. For orange the HR was 2.6 (95% CI 1.8 to 3.6) for DEPT and 7.6 (95% CI 5.1 to 11.2) for Eyeball triage, and for red the HR was 19.1 (95% CI 10.4 to 35.2) for DEPT and 27.1 (95% CI 16.9 to 43.5) for Eyeball triage. Agreement between the two systems was poor (kappa 0.05).


Agreement between formalised triage and clinical assessment is poor. A simple clinical assessment by phlebotomists is superior to a formalised triage system to predict short-term mortality in ED patients.


death/mortality; emergency department; emergency department operations; emergency department utilisation; triage

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