What is the Abbreviated Injury Scale?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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The Abbreviated Injury Scale is a standardized scoring system used in the assessment of injuries. It does not predict outcomes or dictate a treatment plan, but can be useful in making decisions about patient care. In addition, it may be used in studies on injury survivability, care performance records at specific medical facilities, and in other settings. It is one among an assortment of scoring tools that can be used by health care professionals.

The AIS, as it is also known, was developed by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine in 1969, and has been adapted several times since. This organization is international and includes members from a number of different disciplines, with the goal of improving survivability in car accidents, making updates to car safety technology, and educating health care professionals about treatment of trauma victims involved in car crashes.

While the process behind the Abbreviated Injury Scale is proprietary, the basic system is similar to that used for things like the Organ Damage Scoring System and Injury Severity Score. The patient's body is divided into a number of zones, injuries in each zone are assessed, and this is used to generate a single numerical score between one and six. This score can be noted in the patient's chart and may be referred to during the development of a treatment plan and in assessments after the fact.


A one is a minor injury, while twos and threes are moderate and serious, respectively. A four on the Abbreviated Injury Scale is considered a severe injury and fives are critical. A score of six indicates that an injury is unsurvivable, with trauma so severe that the patient cannot be expected to live. This information can be important when conducting triage at a site with multiple casualties and limited resources. People with fours and fives can be evacuated quickly for medical treatment, while sixes can be given supportive care on scene.

In facilities where the Abbreviated Injury Scale is used, people have access to manuals developed to train people in assessing and scoring patients. The scenes of car accidents can be chaotic and traumatic and it is important for people to be familiar with the scoring process before they arrive on scene so that they can make rapid assessments without having to consult a reference. Being able to score patients with tools like the Abbreviated Injury Scale can help people deliver more targeted and appropriate patient care, in addition to helping care providers focus.


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