What is Triage?

March 7, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Defining Triage

The term triage refers to the sorting of injured or sick people according to their need for emergency medical attention.  The term trier is French for “sort” or “select” and is the base for the word triage.  The term triage, as it relates to medical terminology, dates back to the days of Napoleon Bonaparte.  Napoleon’s conquests across the European continent resulted in mass numbers of injured soldiers.  Managing these injured facilitated the necessity of differentiating, in many cases, whose injuries were survivable and whose chances of survival were the slimmest. Over time, triage systems have evolved into a very well-defined medical process.  Specific medical training is required for the utilization of the multiple types of triage systems available.  Whether the scenario is an inner-city emergency room, a battlefield in a war zone, or a natural or man-made disaster, wherever mass injuries or casualties are present, the triage process is critical for the highest rate of recovery and treatment of patients.


Triage can be performed in a number of locations and circumstances. Triage may be performed on the scene, as would be the case in a situation with a large number of injuries. This would include natural disasters like hurricanes or tornadoes where too few ambulances are available to transport the injured and where immediate medical attention is needed for survival. Emergency rooms are the quintessential Pre dental hospital internship Tanzaniaexample of triage. In order to manage a large influx of patients at any given time, an emergency room triage process prioritizes those with the most critical injuries before addressing those with more minor or non-life threatening injuries or illnesses.  The most demanding of all triage processes involves battlefield triage, and of you are considering a medical career through the military, you are likely to encounter this scenario. Be prepared to encounter multiple serious injuries and make split-second decisions in this triage process. Combat situations often lead to injuries not typically found in a hospital emergency room.

Color-Coded Systems

Triage color-coding systems help triage units function smoothly and with quick action. In a casualty situation, such as a large accident or on the battlefield, color-coding is effective.  Each color represents the severity of the injury.  Colors are easily recognizable and require no language skills to identify the severity of the injury.   The most common color system is similar to this:

Red: Immediate attention needed. Critical life-threatening injuries/illness. Transport first.

Yellow:  Immediate attention needed. Serious injuries. Transport as soon as possible.

Green: Less serious minor injuries. Non-life threatening condition. Delayed transport.

Black: Deceased or mortally wounded. Delayed transport.

Advances in Triage

Today, with the advance of technology and new media, triage has entering the digital age.  Through closed teleconferencing, cell phones, and the Internet, communication between trauma centers (those designated for emergencies) and smaller hospitals is possible in almost any emergency scenario.  This communication can increase the effectiveness and utilization of services in triage systems and how services are distributed to the injured.  It also allows for a shared knowledge base between all connected parties involved in emergency situations.  An effective triage system and its connectivity is critical to saving lives in any emergency that may arise, and without it, the mortality rate increases, as do recovery times. The goal of triage is maximum effectiveness in am emergency management situation. — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.