Chapter 7. Critical care triage

Michael D. Christian, Gavin M. Joynt, John L. Hick, John Colvin, Marion Danis, Charles L. Sprung

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Purpose: To provide recommendations and standard operating procedures for intensive care unit (ICU) and hospital preparations for an influenza pandemic or mass disaster with a specific focus on critical care triage. Methods: Based on a literature review and expert opinion, a Delphi process was used to define the essential topics including critical care triage. Results: Key recommendations include: (1) establish an Incident Management System with Emergency Executive Control Groups at facility, local, regional/state or national levels to exercise authority and direction over resources; (2) developing fair and equitable policies may require restricting ICU services to patients most likely to benefit; (3) usual treatments and standards of practice may be impossible to deliver; (4) ICU care and treatments may have to be withheld from patients likely to die even with ICU care and withdrawn after a trial in patients who do not improve or deteriorate; (5) triage criteria should be objective, ethical, transparent, applied equitably and be publically disclosed; (6) trigger triage protocols for pandemic influenza only when critical care resources across a broad geographic area are or will be overwhelmed despite all reasonable efforts to extend resources or obtain additional resources; (7) triage of patients for ICU should be based on those who are likely to benefit most or a 'first come, first served' basis; (8) a triage officer should apply inclusion and exclusion criteria to determine patient qualification for ICU admission. Conclusions: Judicious planning and adoption of protocols for critical care triage are necessary to optimize outcomes during a pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S55-S64
JournalIntensive Care Medicine
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Critical care triage
  • Disaster
  • H1N1
  • Hospital
  • Infection control
  • Influenza epidemic
  • Intensive care unit
  • Pandemic
  • Recommendations
  • Staff protection
  • Standard operating procedures
  • Triage


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