Safety of the Manchester Triage System to Detect Critically Ill Children at the Emergency Department

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Abstract

Objective

To assess the safety of the Manchester Triage System in pediatric emergency care for children who require admission to the intensive care unit (ICU).

Study Design

Between 2006 and 2013, 50 062 consecutive emergency department visits of children younger than the age of 16 years were included. We determined the percentage of undertriage, defined as the proportion of children admitted to ICU triaged as low urgent according to the Manchester Triage System, and diagnostic performance measures, including sensitivity, specificity, and diagnostic OR. Characteristics of undertriaged patients were compared with correctly triaged patients. In a logistic regression model, risk factors for undertriage were determined.

Results

In total, 238 (28.7%) of the 830 children admitted to ICU during the study period were undertriaged. Sensitivity of high Manchester Triage System urgency levels to detect ICU admission was 71% (95% CI 68%-74%) and specificity 85% (95% CI 85%-85%). Severity of illness was lower in undertriaged children than correctly triaged children admitted to ICU. Risk factors for undertriage were age <3 months, medical presenting problem, comorbidity, referral by a medical specialist or emergency medical services, and presentation during the evening or night shift.

Conclusion

The Manchester Triage System misclassifies a substantial number of children who require ICU admission. Modifications targeted at young children and children with a comorbid condition could possibly improve safety of the Manchester Triage System in pediatric emergency care.

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