Medical Triage Explanation and Tag Color Chart
Published: 2021-04-06 - Updated: 2021-08-23
Author: Disabled World | Contact: Disabled World (www.disabled-world.com)
Synopsis: Chart and information concerning medical triage, the process of determining priority of patient treatment by severity of condition or likelihood of recovery with and without treatment. The word triage is defined as a system in which priorities are sorted according to which ones are most immediate, the most urgent problems are taken care of before others. When used in medicine and healthcare, the term triage refers to the sorting of injured or sick people according to their need for emergency medical attention.
- The word triage is defined as a system in which priorities are sorted according to which ones are most immediate, the most urgent problems are taken care of before others.
What is Medical Triage?
When used in medicine and healthcare, the term triage refers to the sorting of injured or sick people according to their need for emergency medical attention. There are various forms of triage systems in use by different countries and regions around the world. Triage also has applications in non-healthcare businesses by creating a structure for prioritizing projects, updates, publications, and other timely corporate needs. This article only covers the general meaning and usage of medical triage.
- Simple Triage: May be used at the scene of an accident or mass-casualty incident (MCI), in order to sort patients into those who need critical attention and immediate transport to the hospital and those with less serious injuries.
- Advanced Triage: Specially trained doctors, nurses and paramedics may decide that some seriously injured people should not receive advanced care because they are unlikely to survive. It is used to divert scarce resources away from patients with little chance of survival in order to increase the chances for others with higher likelihoods.
Triage is also used when a medical care system is overwhelmed - when there are more people who need care than there are resources to care for them(i). Broadly speaking, medical staff prioritize patients most likely to survive an intensive care hospitalization. Examples of when triage may be used include:
- When there are mass casualties in war zones.
- After a natural disaster that results in many injuries.
- When there are too many injured people for too few ambulances or EMTs.
- During a pandemic when emergency rooms (ER's) are filled to capacity to determine which patients should be seen and treated immediately. Full capacity protocol (FCP) is an internationally recognized intervention designed to address emergency department (ED) crowding.
During World War I triage was used by French doctors treating battlefield wounded behind the front-line. Those responsible for the removal of the wounded from a battlefield or their care afterwards would divide the victims into three categories:
- Those who are likely to live, regardless of what care they receive.
- Those who are unlikely to live, regardless of what care they receive.
- Those for whom immediate care may make a positive difference in outcome.
At its most primitive, patients may be simply marked with colored tape or marker pens. Emergency Triage (E/T) Lights placed on or near a patient are sometimes used at night or under adverse conditions. Pre-printed cards, known as a triage tags, are also used. The most commonly used commercial triage tag systems include: SMARTTAG, METTAG, CRUCIFORM, and E/T LIGHT™ systems. Triage tags generally consist of a label placed on a patient to:
- Identify the patient.
- Bear record of assessment findings.
- Identify other hazards such as contamination.
- Track the patients' progress through the triage process.
- Identify priority of the patient's need for medical treatment and transport from the emergency scene.
Advanced Triage System
One triage scheme, the advanced triage system, uses a color-coding system consisting of red, yellow, green, white, and black tags:
|Advanced Triage System Chart|
|Red||Immediate||Needs immediate attention for a critical life-threatening injury or illness; transport first for medical help. Red tags are used to label those who cannot survive without immediate treatment but who have a chance of survival.|
|Yellow||Observation||Serious injuries needing immediate attention. For those who require observation (and possible later re-triage). Their condition is currently stable and they are not in immediate danger of death. These victims still need hospital care and would be treated immediately under normal circumstances. In some systems, yellow tag patients are transported first because they have a better chance of recovery than red-tagged patients.|
|Green||Wait||Less serious or minor injuries, non-life-threatening, delayed transport; will eventually need help but can wait for others. Reserved for the "walking wounded" who will need medical care at some point, after more critical injuries have been treated.|
|Black||Expectant||Deceased or mortally wounded; black may not mean the person has already died. It may mean that he or she is beyond help and, therefore, is a lower priority than those who can be helped.|
|White||Dismiss||No injury or illness (not used in all systems). Also given to those with minor injuries for whom a doctor's care is not required.|
Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS)
The 5 Levels Canadian Triage and Acuity Scale (CTAS) Are:
- Level 1: Resuscitation - Conditions that are threats to life or limb.
- Level 2: Emergent - Conditions that are a potential threat to life, limb or function.
- Level 3: Urgent - Serious conditions that require emergency intervention.
- Level 4: Less urgent - Conditions that relate to patient distress or potential complications that would benefit from intervention.
- Level 5: Non-urgent - Conditions that are non-urgent or that may be part of a chronic problem.
Triage Ethical Concerns
There is widespread agreement among ethicists that, in practice, during the COVID-19 pandemic triage should prioritize "those who have the best chance of surviving" and follow guidelines with strict criteria that consider both short-term and long-term survivability. Likewise, the triage of other health services has been adjusted during the pandemic to limit resource strain on hospitals(ii).
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Under the utilitarian model, triage works to maximize the survival outcomes of the most people possible. This approach implies that some individuals may likely suffer or perish in order for the majority to survive. Triage officers must allocate limited resources and weigh an individual's needs with the population as a whole(iii).
Medical Triage decisions are heart wrenching and traumatizing for all involved, not just for the family, but for the medical team as well. Because treatment is intentionally delayed or withheld from individuals under this system, triage has ethical implications that complicate the decision-making process. Individuals involved in triage must take a comprehensive view of the process to ensure fidelity, veracity, justice, autonomy, and beneficence are safeguarded.
Printable Triage Color Tag Chart
Advanced triage system chart showing the five different color tags and their meanings.
- (i) - Bazyar J, Farrokhi M, Khankeh H. Triage systems in mass casualty incidents and disasters: A review study with a worldwide approach.
- (ii) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triage
- (iii) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triage
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Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2021, April 6). Medical Triage Explanation and Tag Color Chart. Disabled World. Retrieved June 30, 2022 from www.disabled-world.com/calculators-charts/triage.php
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