Triage for the neurosurgeon

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Triage for the neurosurgeon is a misnomer. The neurosurgeon's role within a mass-casualty situation is one of a subspecialist surgeon instead of a triage officer. Unfortunately because of the events of September 11, 2001, civilian neurosurgeons and other medical specialists have been questioning their role within a mass-casualty situation or, worse, a situation created by biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. There is no single triage system used exclusively within the United States, and different systems have differing sensitivities, specificities, and labeling methods. The purpose of this article is to discuss varying aspects of triage for both military personnel and civilians and suggest how the neurosurgeon may help shape this process within his or her community. Furthermore, the effects of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons will be discussed in relation to the triage system.

Abbreviations used in this paper:EMT = emergency medical technician; ER = emergency room; GCS = Glasgow Coma Scale; WMD = weapons of mass destruction.

Triage for the neurosurgeon is a misnomer. The neurosurgeon's role within a mass-casualty situation is one of a subspecialist surgeon instead of a triage officer. Unfortunately because of the events of September 11, 2001, civilian neurosurgeons and other medical specialists have been questioning their role within a mass-casualty situation or, worse, a situation created by biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. There is no single triage system used exclusively within the United States, and different systems have differing sensitivities, specificities, and labeling methods. The purpose of this article is to discuss varying aspects of triage for both military personnel and civilians and suggest how the neurosurgeon may help shape this process within his or her community. Furthermore, the effects of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons will be discussed in relation to the triage system.

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Article Information

Address reprint requests to: Diana Barrett Wiseman, M.D., Department of Neurological Surgery, 1959 NE Pacific Street, Box 356470, Seattle, Washington 98195. email: wisedb@u.washington.edu.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

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