What is the Secondary Survey?

In our previous first aid blog post we explained about the primary survey. The focus of this post is now going to switch to the secondary survey.

Remember the purpose of the primary survey is to provide an initial quick check for life-threatening illnesses and injuries.

Once the primary survey has been completed (with any problems fixed) you can move onto performing a secondary survey. The purpose of a secondary survey is to perform a more detailed & thorough examination to identify illnesses and injuries.

Neurological Disability

Depending on the situation it may be appropriate to perform a more detailed assessment of a casualties level of consciousness such as the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS)

Examination / ‘top to toe’ survey

It may also be appropriate to perform a thorough examination to check for any injuries. Often, this check is carried out from ‘top to toe’.


Questioning is an important part of the secondary survey. You can use a mnemonic such as ‘SAMPLE’ to help you structure your questioning:

S: Symptoms
A: Allergies
M: Medication
P: Past medical/surgical history (relevant)
L: Last meal / last drink
E: Events leading up to the incident/injury

Continuous monitoring

It is important to continue monitoring your casualty. This includes performing basic observations such as pulse rate and respiratory rate, as well as more advanced monitoring techniques that you have been taught.

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid and CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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1 Response

  1. cpefley says:

    SAMPLE is a great anagram to remember all of those things. Great tips!

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