Triage Policies at U.S. Hospitals with Pediatric Intensive Care Units

Erica K. Salter, Jay R. Malone, Amanda Berg, Annie B. Friedrich, Alexandra Hucker, Hillary King, Armand H.Matheny Antommaria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To characterize the prevalence and content of pediatric triage policies. Methods: We surveyed and solicited policies from U.S. hospitals with pediatric intensive care units. Policies were analyzed using qualitative methods and coded by 2 investigators. Results: Thirty-four of 120 institutions (28%) responded. Twenty-five (74%) were freestanding children’s hospitals and 9 (26%) were hospitals within a hospital. Nine (26%) had approved policies, 9 (26%) had draft policies, 5 (14%) were developing policies, and 7 (20%) did not have policies. Nineteen (68%) institutions shared their approved or draft policy. Eight (42%) of those policies included neonates. The polices identified 0 to 5 (median 2) factors to prioritize patients. The most common factors were short- (17, 90%) and long- (14, 74%) term predicted mortality. Pediatric scoring systems included Pediatric Logistic Organ Dysfunction-2 (12, 63%) and Score for Neonatal Acute Physiology and Perinatal Extensions-II (4, 21%). Thirteen (68%) policies described a formal algorithm. The most common tiebreakers were random/lottery (10, 71%) and life cycles (9, 64%). The majority (15, 79%) of policies specified the roles of triage team members and 13 (68%) precluded those participating in patient care from making triage decisions. Conclusions: While many institutions still do not have pediatric triage policies, there appears to be a trend among those with policies to utilize a formal algorithm that focuses on short- and long-term predicted mortality and that incorporates age-appropriate scoring systems. Additional work is needed to expand access to pediatric-specific policies, to validate scoring systems, and to address health disparities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-90
Number of pages7
JournalAJOB Empirical Bioethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Resource allocation
  • pediatric ethics
  • triage


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