The found down patient: A Western Trauma Association multicenter study

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Unconscious patients who present after being “found down” represent a unique triage challenge. These patients are selected for either trauma or medical evaluation based on limited information and have been shown in a single-center study to have significant occult injuries and/or missed medical diagnoses. We sought to further characterize this population in a multicenter study and to identify predictors of mistriage.

METHODS

The Western Trauma Association Multicenter Trials Committee conducted a retrospective study of patients categorized as found down by emergency department triage diagnosis at seven major trauma centers. Demographic, clinical, and outcome data were collected. Mistriage was defined as patients being admitted to a non–triage-activated service. Logistic regression was used to assess predictors of specified outcomes.

RESULTS

Of 661 patients, 33% were triaged to trauma evaluations, and 67% were triaged to medical evaluations; 56% of all patients had traumatic injuries. Trauma-triaged patients had significantly higher rates of combined injury and a medical diagnosis and underwent more computed tomographic imaging; they had lower rates of intoxication and homelessness. Among the 432 admitted patients, 17% of them were initially mistriaged. Even among properly triaged patients, 23% required cross-consultation from the non–triage-activated service after admission. Age was an independent predictor of mistriage, with a doubling of the rate for groups older than 70 years. Combined medical diagnosis and injury was also predictive of mistriage. Mistriaged patients had a trend toward increased late-identified injuries, but mistriage was not associated with increased length of stay or mortality.

CONCLUSION

Patients who are found down experience significant rates of mistriage and triage discordance requiring cross-consultation. Although the majority of found down patients are triaged to nontrauma evaluation, more than half have traumatic injuries. Characteristics associated with increased rates of mistriage, including advanced age, may be used to improve resource use and minimize missed injury in this vulnerable patient population.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE

Epidemiologic study, level III.

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