Glasgow Coma Scale Motor Component (“Patient Does Not Follow Commands”) Performs Similarly to Total Glasgow Coma Scale in Predicting Severe Injury in Trauma Patients


Study objective Trauma victims are frequently triaged to a trauma center according to the patient's calculated Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score despite its known inconsistencies. The substitution of a simpler binary assessment of GCS-motor (GCS-m) score less than 6 (ie, “patient does not follow commands”) would simplify field triage. We compare total GCS score to this binary assessment for predicting trauma outcomes. Methods This retrospective analysis of a statewide trauma registry includes records from 393,877 patients from 1999 to 2013. Patients with initial GCS score less than or equal to 13 were compared with those with GCS-m score less than 6 for outcomes of Injury Severity Score (ISS) greater than 15, ISS greater than 24, death, ICU admission, need for surgery, or need for craniotomy. We judged a priori that differences less than 5% lack clinical importance. Results The relative differences between GCS and GCS-m scores less than 6 were less than 5% and thus clinically unimportant for all outcomes tested, even when statistically significant. For the 6 outcomes, the differences in areas under receiver operating characteristic curves ranged from 0.014 to 0.048. Total GCS score less than or equal to 13 was slightly more sensitive (difference 3.3%; 95% confidence interval 3.2% to 3.4%) and slightly less specific (difference –1.5%; 95% confidence interval –1.6% to –1.5%) than GCS-m score less than 6 for predicting ISS greater than 15, with similar overall accuracy (74.1% versus 74.2%). Conclusion Replacement of the total GCS score with a simple binary decision point of GCS-m score less than 6, or a patient who “does not follow commands,” predicts serious injury, as well as the total GCS score, and would simplify out-of-hospital trauma triage.

Publication Title

Annals of Emergency Medicine