Defining obstacles to emergency transfer of trauma patients: An evaluation of retriage processes from nontrauma and lower-level Illinois trauma centers

Published:September 30, 2022DOI:



      Retriage is the emergency transfer of severely injured patients from nontrauma and lower-level trauma centers to higher-level trauma centers. We identified the barriers to retriage at sending centers in a single health system.


      We conducted a failure modes effects and criticality analysis at 4 nontrauma centers and 5 lower-level trauma centers in a single health system. Clinicians from each center described the steps in the trauma assessment and retriage process to create a process map. We used standardized scoring to characterize each failure based on frequency, impact on retriage, and prevention safeguards. We ranked each failure using the scores to calculate a risk priority number.


      We identified 26 steps and 93 failures. The highest-risk failure was refusal by higher-level trauma centers (receiving hospitals) to accept a patient. The most critical failures in the retriage process based on total risk, frequency, and safeguard scores were (1) refusal from a receiving higher-level trauma center to accept a patient (risk priority number = 191), (2) delay in a sending center’s consultant examination of a patient in the emergency department (risk priority number = 177), and (3) delay in receiving hospital’s consultant calling back (risk priority number = 177).


      We identified (1) addressing obstacles to determining clinical indications for retriage and (2) identifying receiving level I trauma centers who would accept the patient as opportunities to increase timely retriage. Establishing clear clinical indications for retriage that sending and receiving hospitals agree on represents an opportunity for intervention that could improve the retriage of injured patients.
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