The ABCDE approach explained
The ABCDE approach may help you deal with acutely ill patients systematically
The resuscitation room (“resus”) in the emergency department is where patients with immediately life threatening illnesses and injuries are managed. For a medical student it can be a daunting environment to enter for the first time: the resus team has to move quickly to keep patients alive, and it can be hard to keep up to speed with what’s going on.
Despite what might seem like chaos, the team uses a systematic method for managing all acutely ill patients called the ABCDE (A-E) approach. It is a way of systematically assessing each of a patient’s vital systems—airway, breathing, circulation, disability, and exposure.
The aim of the assessment is to identify and stabilise the patient’s most life threatening problems first, before moving on to the next vital system to achieve some clinical improvement to buy time for further treatment and making a diagnosis.1 Once the team has completed an A-E assessment,