Pediatric surgery triage: Problems and improvements


Etsuji Ukiyama, MD,PhD, Department of Pediatric Surgery, Kyorin University Faculty of Medicine, 6-20-2, Shinkawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181-8611, Japan. Email:


Background:  The Canadian Paediatric Triage and Acuity Scale (P-CTAS) is used and modified at hospitals as a triage tool for pediatric patients before they are seen in emergency rooms. Pediatric surgery patients account for very few of the many patients in emergency departments, but they should be triaged as emergency or urgent because they might be candidates for surgery. Problems with and improvements for triaging pediatric surgery patients using the P-CTAS were studied.

Methods:  This retrospective study evaluated all patients <16 years old who visited the emergency department of Kyorin University Hospital during an approximately 4 year period between 1 May 2005, and 11 February 2009. Pediatric surgery patients were divided into two groups to evaluate the efficiency of P-CTAS triage. Patients who needed emergency treatment were in group A, and the others were in group B.

Results:  Most group A patients were level I, II, or III (97%, 111/114). In contrast, 60% (71/119) of group B patients were level IV or greater. Some problems with and suggestions for the P-CTAS were identified. Many patients with trauma were under 1 year of age, and many with a foreign body were under 2 years of age. Age categories should be added for patients with trauma or foreign body aspiration. Patients with abdominal pain, and without anal bleeding or vomiting who are >2 years old are triaged as level IV and they accounted for 12% of patients with possible intussusception in this study. A category of ‘possible intussusception’ should be made for level II. Most patients with acute scrotum, whether operated on or not, were level III. ‘Red or purple color of scrotal skin’ and/or ‘within 6 h from onset’ could be added to level II for patients with acute scrotum.

Conclusions:  P-CTAS worked well for pediatric surgery patients, and it needs to be modified and improved for such patients based on these results.