Age is associated with increased mortality in the RETTS-A triage scale

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BACKGROUND: Triage is widely used in the emergency department (ED) in order to identify the patient's level of urgency and often based on the patient's chief complaint and vital signs. Age has been shown to be independently associated with short term mortality following an ED visit. However, the most commonly used ED triage tools do not include age as an independent core variable. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between age and 7- and 30-day mortality across the triage priority level groups according to Rapid Emergency Triage and Treatment System - Adult (RETTS-A), the most widely used triage tool in Sweden.

METHODS: In this cohort, we included all adult patients visiting the ED at the Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden, from 1/1/2010 to 1/1/2015, n = 639,387. All patients were triaged according to the RETTS-A and subsequently separated into three age strata: 18-59, 60-79 and ≥ 80 years. Descriptive analyses and logistic regression was used. The primary outcome measures were 7- and 30-day mortality.

RESULTS: We observed that age was associated with both 7 and 30-day mortality in each triage priority level group. Mortality was higher in older patients across all triage priority levels but the association with age was stronger in the lowest triage group (p-value for interaction = < 0.001). Comparing patients ≥80 years with patients 18-59 years, older patients had a 16 and 7 fold higher risk for 7 day mortality in the lowest and highest triage priority groups, respectively. The corresponding numbers for 30-d mortality were a 21- and 8-foldincreased risk, respectively.

CONCLUSION: Compared to younger patients, patients above 60 years have an increased short term mortality across the RETTS-A triage priority level groups and this was most pronounced in the lowest triage level. The reason for our findings are unclear and data suggest a validation of RETTS-A in aged patients.


  • T Ruge
  • G Malmer
  • C Wachtler
  • U Ekelund
  • E Westerlund
  • P Svensson
  • A C Carlsson
External organisations
  • Karolinska Institutet
  • Karolinska University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Geriatrics
Original languageEnglish
Article number139
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May 23
Publication categoryResearch