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Patient assessment: do you use your ABCDE?

The pros of the ABCDE approach are accepted, yet ‘doing the obs’ remains common practice
Illustration showing the five elements of the ABCDE approach to assessing deteriorating patients

The pros of the ABCDE approach to assessing deteriorating patients are widely accepted, yet ‘doing the obs’ remains common practice

In the context of the deteriorating patient, it is accepted (fairly unequivocally) that patient assessment be carried out using an airway, breathing, circulation, disability and exposure (ABCDE) sequence.

This highly systematic and linear approach to patient assessment is often the bedrock of training programmes related to care of the deteriorating patient and/or resuscitation.

An adaptable approach suitable for every healthcare practitioner

Following an ABCDE approach is considered beneficial, as it allows the practitioner to identify potentially life-threatening problems in a timely fashion and – in principle – by order of severity; severity in this context typically relates to likelihood of inducing further deterioration and/or cardiac arrest.

ABCDE provides a degree of flexibility that allows different practitioners to perform

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