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[Fr. triage, sorting]
1. The screening and classification of casualties to make optimal use of treatment resources and to maximize the survival and welfare of patients.
2. Sorting patients and setting priorities for their treatment in urgent care settings, emergency rooms, clinics, hospitals, health maintenance organizations, or in the field.
To triage a patient the health care professional assesses mental status, airway, breathing, and circulation and makes decisions about treatment priorities. The process is dynamic, e.g., the patient’s condition may change and upon reassessment, so may the priority. Common triage categories used in the field during multiple casualty incidents would include: P-1 or red, P-2 or yellow, P-3 or green, and P-0 or deceased.
Most emergency department triage systems rely on patient surveys, with victims assigned to the following categories based on assessment: emergent (requires stabilization or treatment within minutes to prevent death or further injury), urgent (serious but not life-threatening, should be treated within 2 hr), and nonurgent (minor or stable injury or illness, does not require treatment within 2 hr). In the primary survey of the patient, the Airway, Breathing, Circulation, need for Defibrillation (or neurological Disability) are assessed and the patient is undressed or Exposed. (The survey sequence is remembered with the mnemonic ABCDE.) Resuscitation of the patient begins immediately, based on the findings. In the secondary survey, the same elements of care are reviewed, but the emphasis is on assessing the effectiveness of interventions to maintain the airway, support ventilation, control hemorrhage and blood pressure, and restore normal physiology. After stabilization the patient may be admitted to a hospital, or transported to a facility better equipped to manage his or her illness or injuries.
Warming measures should be employed to avoid hypothermia caused by “E” (exposure).