Vital signs and physiologic derangement in patients with thoracic trauma in Iraq and Afghanistan

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Military Medicine








Background: Triage is the act of stratifying the need for medical attention. Effective triage must account for injury patterns and severity. Personnel making triage decisions must also consider the patients’ physiologic states. Vital signs can possibly be used to assess for the presence of physiological derangements such as coagulopathy, acidosis, or a significant base deficit. Providers could use this knowledge to assist with triage at casualty collection points where laboratory studies or point of care testing may not be available. Methods: With institutional approval, data were extracted from the Joint Theater Trauma Registry for all patients with thoracic trauma between 2002 and 2012. Patients were identified by International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 9th Revision (ICD-9) codes. Heart rate (HR), systolic blood pressure (SBP), and pulse pressure were correlated with coagulopathy (international normalization ratio ≥ 1.5), acidosis (pH < 7.2) or an elevated base deficit (>6) on admission. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive values, negative predictive values, and odds ratios were calculated. Findings: HR > 100, SBP < 90, or pulse pressure <30 were associated with an increased risk for acidosis (odds ratio 3.06 [95% confidence interval 2.48–3.78], 4.72 [3.85–5.78], and 2.73 [2.15–3.48], respectively), coagulopathy (2.21 [1.72–2.83], 4.55 [3.57–5.80], and 2.73 [2.15–3.48], respectively), and base deficit >6 (2.17 [1.88–2.50], 3.48 [2.87– 4.22], and 2.22 [1.78–2.77], respectively). HR was a moderately sensitive marker (0.74), whereas SBP was a specific marker (0.93). Discussion: SBP < 90 is an effective marker for ruling in physiologic derangement after thoracic trauma. HR > 100 was associated with over twice the odds for physiologic derangement. Vital signs can be used to assess for physiologic derangement in the population studied and may help in triage.