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J Emerg Med. 2019 May 8. pii: S0736-4679(19)30263-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2019.04.003. [Epub ahead of print]

Old Age With a Traumatic Mechanism of Injury Should Be a Trauma Team Activation Criterion.

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Division of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, Los Angeles County and University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California.



Age is not a standard trauma team activation (TTA) criteria recommended by the Committee on Trauma. However, there is concern that vital signs in elderly patients are often unreliable. In addition, elderly patients are at risk after moderate trauma. At our institution, age ≥ 70 years with traumatic mechanisms of injury has been a TTA criterion for more than 15 years.


Our aim was to determine whether age ≥70 years as a TTA criterion appropriately identifies patients in need of additional resources without significantly impacting overtriage rates.


We conducted a retrospective trauma registry study of TTAs for age ≥ 70 years from January 2012-December 2016. Demographics, injury data, Injury Severity Score (ISS), procedures, emergency department (ED) disposition, and hospital data were collected. Primary outcome was mortality, secondary outcomes were intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital lengths of stay. Patients were stratified into meeting standard criteria (TTA-S) or activated based on age alone (TTA-A). TTA patients with ISS > 15, ED intubation, ICU admission, immediate operating room or catheter-based intervention, and mortalities were appropriately triaged.


During the study, there were 5436 total TTAs. Seven hundred and thirty-nine TTAs in patients aged ≥ 70 years, of which 198 (26.8%) were TTA-S and 541 (73.2%) were TTA-A. In the TTA-A group, 49 (9%) patients died, 149 (27.5%) had ISS > 15, 65 (12%) underwent immediate intervention, 72 (13%) had ED intubations, and 306 (56.6%) required admission to the ICU. The overtriage rate in the TTA-A group was 39.6%.


Elderly patients with severe trauma patients often do not meet the standard TTA criteria, resulting in potentially dangerous undertriage. Addition of age (≥70 years) criterion for TTA reduces undertriage and does not result in excessive overtriage.


geriatric; overtriage; trauma team activation

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