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Adult Nursing (b740) The Abcde Approach

John Marsh
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Sheffield Hallam University

Adult Nursing (b740)

The Abcde approach

The ABCDE approach

Underlying principles

First steps

Airway (A)

Breathing (B)

Circulation (C)

Disability (D)

Exposure (E)

Additional information

The approach to all deteriorating or critically ill patients is the same. The underlying
principles are:
1. Use the Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Exposure (ABCDE) approach to
assess and treat the patient.
2. Do a complete initial assessment and re-assess regularly.
3. Treat life-threatening problems before moving to the next part of assessment.
4. Assess the effects of treatment.
5. Recognise when you will need extra help. Call for appropriate help early.
6. Use all members of the team. This enables interventions (e.g. assessment, attaching
monitors, intravenous access), to be undertaken simultaneously.
7. Communicate effectively – use the Situation, Background, Assessment,
Recommendation (SBAR) or Reason, Story, Vital signs, Plan (RSVP) approach.
8. The aim of the initial treatment is to keep the patient alive, and achieve some clinical
improvement. This will buy time for further treatment and making a diagnosis.
9. Remember – it can take a few minutes for treatments to work, so wait a short while
before reassessing the patient after an intervention.



Adult Nursing (b740) The Abcde Approach

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