Prognostic value of early warning scores in the emergency department (ED) and acute medical unit (AMU): A narrative review

R. S. Nannan Panday, T. C. Minderhoud, N. Alam, P. W.B. Nanayakkara

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87 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A wide array of early warning scores (EWS) have been developed and are used in different settings to detect which patients are at risk of deterioration. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of studies conducted on the value of EWS on predicting intensive care (ICU) admission and mortality in the emergency department (ED) and acute medical unit (AMU). Methods: A literature search was conducted in the bibliographic databases PubMed and EMBASE, from inception to April 2017. Two reviewers independently screened all potentially relevant titles and abstracts for eligibility. Results: 42 studies were included. 36 studies reported on mortality as an endpoint, 13 reported ICU admission and 9 reported the composite outcome of mortality and ICU admission. For mortality prediction National Early Warning Score (NEWS) was the most accurate score in the general ED population and in those with respiratory distress, Mortality in Emergency Department Sepsis score (MEDS) had the best accuracy in patients with an infection or sepsis. ICU admission was best predicted with NEWS, however in patients with an infection or sepsis Modified Early Warning Score (MEWS) yielded better results for this outcome. Conclusion: MEWS and NEWS generally had favourable results in the ED and AMU for all endpoints. Many studies have been performed on ED and AMU populations using heterogeneous prognostic scores. However, future studies should concentrate on a simple and easy to use prognostic score such as NEWS with the aim of introducing this throughout the (pre-hospital and hospital) acute care chain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-31
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Internal Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Acute medical unit
  • Early warning scores
  • Emergency department
  • ICU admission
  • Mortality

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