A Two-Center Validation of “Patient Does Not Follow Commands” and Three Other Simplified Measures to Replace the Glasgow Coma Scale for Field Trauma Triage

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Abstract

Study objective:

Out-of-hospital personnel worldwide calculate the 13-point Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score as a routine part of field trauma triage. We wish to independently validate a simpler binary assessment to replace the GCS for this task.

Methods:

We analyzed trauma center registries from Loma Linda University Health (2003 to 2015) and Denver Health Medical Center (2009 to 2015) to compare the binary assessment “patient does not follow commands” (ie, GCS motor score <6) with GCS score less than or equal to 13 for the prediction of 5 trauma outcomes: emergency intubation, clinically significant brain injury, need for neurosurgical intervention, Injury Severity Score greater than 15, and mortality. As a secondary analysis, we similarly evaluated 3 other measures simpler than the GCS: GCS motor score less than 5, Simplified Motor Score, and the “alert, voice, pain, unresponsive” scale.

Results:

In this analysis of 47,973 trauma patients, we found that the binary assessment “patient does not follow commands” was essentially identical to GCS score less than or equal to 13 for the prediction of all 5 trauma outcomes, with slightly superior positive likelihood ratios (eg, those for mortality 2.37 versus 2.13) offsetting slightly inferior negative ones (eg, those for mortality 0.25 versus 0.24) and its graphic depiction of sensitivity versus specificity superimposing the GCS prediction curve. We found similar results for the 3 other simplified measures.

Conclusion:

In this 2-center external validation, we confirmed that a simple binary assessment—“patient does not follow commands”—could effectively replace the more complicated GCS for field trauma triage.

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