Researchers Examine Use of a Triage Scoring System in Flu Pandemic

Kayode A Adeniji and Rebecca Cusack, of the Critical Care Research Unit at Southampton General Hospital, in Southampton, UK, report that triage protocols are only initiated when it is apparent that resource deficits will occur across a broad geographical area despite efforts to expand or acquire additional capacity. They explain that prior to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, the UK department of health (DOH) recommended the use of a staged triage plan incorporating Sequential Organ Failure Assessment (SOFA) developed by the Ontario Ministry of Health to assist in the triage of critical-care admissions and discharges during an influenza outbreak in the UK. They say there is data to suggest that had it been used in the recent H1N1 pandemic, it may have led to inappropriate limitation of therapy if surge capacity had been overwhelmed.

Adeniji and Cusack retrospectively reviewed the performance of the Simple Triage Scoring System (STSS) as an indicator of the utilization of hospital resources in adult patients with confirmed H1N1 admitted to a university teaching hospital. Their aim was to compare it against the staged initial SOFA score process with regards to mortality, need for intensive care admission and requirement for mechanical ventilation and assess its validity. Their research was published in Critical Care.

They report that over an eight-month period, 62 patients with confirmed H1N1 were admitted. 40 (65 percent) had documented comorbidities and 27 (44 percent) had pneumonic changes on their admission CXR. Nineteen (31 percent) were admitted to the intensive care unit where five (26 percent) required mechanical ventilation (MV). There were three deaths. The researchers say that the STSS group categorization demonstrated a better discriminating accuracy in predicting critical care resource usage with a receiver operating characteristic area under the curve (95 percent confidence interval) for ICU admission of 0.88 (0.78-0.98) and need for MV of 0.91 (0.83-0.99). This compared to the staged SOFA score of 0.77 (0.65-0.89) and 0.87 (0.72-1.00) respectively. Low mortality rates limited analysis on survival predictions.

Adeniji and Cusack conclude that the STSS accurately risk stratified patients in this cohort according to their risk of death; predicted the likelihood of admission to critical care and the requirement for MV. They add that its single point in time, accuracy and easily collected component variables commend it as an alternative reproducible system to facilitate the triage and treatment of patients in any future influenza pandemic.

Reference: Adeniji KA and Cusack R. The Simple Triage Scoring System (STSS) successfully predicts mortality and critical care resource utilisation in H1N1 pandemic flu: a retrospective analysis. Critical Care 2011, 15:R39doi:10.1186/cc10001

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