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Disaster triage

15 Nov 2023 START, maybe the best disaster triage system we have. But is it accurate? Do we need to rethink the concept of hospital disaster triage?

Disaster triage

Franc JM, Kirkland SW, Wisnesky UD, Campbell S, Rowe BH. METASTART: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the diagnostic accuracy of the Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment (START) algorithm for disaster triage. Prehospital and disaster medicine. 2022 Feb;37(1):106-16.

The goal of disaster triage at both the prehospital and in-hospital level is to maximize resources and optimize patient outcomes. Of the disaster-specific triage methods developed to guide health care providers, the Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment (START) algorithm has become the most popular system world-wide. Despite its appeal and global application, the accuracy and effectiveness of the START protocol is not well-known.

The purpose of this meta-analysis was two-fold: (1) to estimate overall accuracy, under-triage, and over-triage of the START method when used by providers across a variety of backgrounds; and (2) to obtain specific accuracy for each of the four START categories: red, yellow, green, and black.

A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted that searched Medline (OVID), Embase (OVID), Global Health (OVID), CINAHL (EBSCO), Compendex (Engineering Village), SCOPUS, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global, Cochrane Library, and PROSPERO. The results were expanded by hand searching of journals, reference lists, and the grey literature. The search was executed in March 2020. The review considered the participants, interventions, context, and outcome (PICO) framework and followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Accuracy outcomes are presented as means with 95% confidence intervals (CI) as calculated using the binomial method. Pooled meta-analyses of accuracy outcomes using fixed and random effects models were calculated and the heterogeneity was assessed using the Q statistic.

Thirty-two studies were included in the review, most of which utilized a non-randomized study design (84%). Proportion of victims correctly triaged using START ranged from 0.27 to 0.99 with an overall triage accuracy of 0.73 (95% CI, 0.67 to 0.78). Proportion of over-triage was 0.14 (95% CI, 0.11 to 0.17) while the proportion of under-triage was 0.10 (95% CI, 0.072 to 0.14). There was significant heterogeneity of the studies for all outcomes (P < .0001).

This meta-analysis suggests that START is not accurate enough to serve as a reliable disaster triage tool. Although the accuracy of START may be similar to other models of disaster triage, development of a more accurate triage method should be urgently pursued.

Keywords: disaster medicine, mass-casualty incidents, meta-analysis, START, triage

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