Intensive Care Medicine

, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 933–938 | Cite as

Comparison of the Glasgow Coma Scale and the Reaction Level Scale for assessment of cerebral responsiveness in the critically ill

  • Sten M. WaltherEmail author
  • Ulla Jonasson
  • Hans Gill



The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) is a well-known source of error in outcome prediction models. We compared assessment of cerebral responsiveness with the GCS and the Reaction Level Scale (RLS) in two otherwise similar outcome prediction models.

Design and setting

Prospective, observational study in a general intensive care unit.

Patients and participants

All admissions of patients with or at risk of developing impaired brain function between 1997 and 1998 (n=534).

Measurements and results

Admissions were scored by RLS and APACHE II (includes scoring with the GCS). The RLS scores were transformed to APACHE II central nervous system scores according to a predetermined protocol. APACHE II estimated probability of death was calculated conventionally with the GCS and the RLS. Vital status 90 days after admission was secured from a national database. Bias and precision was 0.5% and 16.6%, respectively. The area under receiver operating characteristic curves was slightly but significantly greater with the RLS-based APACHE II model than with the GCS-based model (0.92 vs. 0.90). Discrimination was improved primarily in admissions with low and intermediate probability of death.


Scoring of cerebral responsiveness with the RLS instead of the GCS was associated with minimal bias of the APACHE II probability of death estimate. Assessment of consciousness in critically ill with the RLS deserves further evaluation


Intensive care Severity of illness index Outcome prediction Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation Glasgow Coma Scale Reaction Level Scale 



This work was performed at the Intensive Care Unit, Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care, Norrköping Hospital, Norrköping, Sweden. The research was supported by a grant from the Norrköping Hospital Research Board.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cardiothoracic Anaesthesia and Intensive CareUniversity HospitalLinköpingSweden
  2. 2.Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive CareNorrköping HospitalNorrköpingSweden
  3. 3.Department of Biomedical EngineeringLinköpings UniversitetLinköpingSweden

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