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What Are the Different Types of Triage Systems?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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While there are many different types of triage systems that can be utilized in hospitals and emergency situations, most systems break down as either simple triage or advanced triage. Simple triage methods are used in systems in which those who are injured or in need of medical assistance are categorized based on their need for treatment. Advanced systems utilize the same basic categories as simple systems, while also including a category for those who are alive but who will not survive their injuries even with treatment. There are specific names for individual triage systems utilized by different hospitals and emergency personnel in various countries.

Triage systems are methods by which people who are in need of medical attention can be categorized based on their injuries to evaluate who is in greatest need of attention. These systems can be used quickly and effectively to assess an emergency situation, especially one in which medical or emergency workers are outnumbered by those in need of help. Once triage systems are utilized, then people can receive assistance based on individual need, which can ensure that medical help is given to those who are in greatest need.

Simple triage systems utilize four basic categories in which injured people or those in need of medical assistance can be categorized. The most severe category is “deceased,” which is utilized for those who have stopped breathing and do not respond to initial efforts to reopen their airways. After this is a category for those who are in “immediate” condition and are in need of medical assistance immediately, or they may die due to the injuries they have sustained. Next are those categorized as “delayed,” which means they have injuries that require attention, though not necessarily immediate attention. The last priority in simple triage systems are those marked as “minor,” which means only light injuries that may not require major medical attention.

Advanced triage systems utilize the same four categories as simple systems, but also introduce a fifth category. This category is used for those who are still alive, but who will die regardless of medical attention. These individuals can be labeled as “deceased” in a simple system. While there are potential ethical implications of medical professionals choosing to withhold treatment for dying patients, this is often done to ensure those who will live with medical assistance receive the help they require.

There are also different types of triage systems that can be utilized for specific situations. Telephone triage, for example, is often used by operators on medical hot lines. Hospital triage is a secondary form of simple triage that is used in emergency reception rooms, often while receiving injured people from an emergency situation.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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