What does DCAP-BTLS stand for?

Memorization of acronyms does not necessarily translate to understanding; here's a breakdown of what DCAP-BTLS means


By Sarah Calams, EMS1 Associate Editor

Anytime you're studying for a test, it's automatically easier to memorize information if you can use or create an acronym.

In EMS, there's an endless amount of terminology and phrases. When you're on scene, it's not helpful if you just say, "Don't forget DCAP-BTLS."

DCAP-BTLS is used to assess trauma patients. (Photo/Ray Kemp)
DCAP-BTLS is used to assess trauma patients. (Photo/Ray Kemp)

Memorization may get you a passing grade on a test, but you must also understand and implement the learned knowledge in your day-to-day calls as an EMS provider.

What does DCAP-BTLS stand for?

  • Deformities: Is there an abnormality in the shape of a body part or organ compared to the normal shape?
  • Contusions: Do you notice bruising? In extreme cases, this can cause blood to seep, hemorrhage or extravasate into surrounding tissues.
  • Abrasions: How severe is the abrasion? Your treatment will vary depending on the severity, but be sure to always clean and remove any debris.
  • Punctures/penetrations: Penetrating trauma suggests an object didn't pass through, while perforating trauma is associated with an entrance and exit wound.
  • Burns: Treatment depends on the severity of the burn.
  • Tenderness: This shouldn't be confused with pain. Tenderness is triggered by discomfort when an affected area is touched.
  • Lacerations: Treatment depends on the type, cause and depth of the wound. Minor wounds heal on their own, while puncture wounds are more prone to infection.
  • Swelling: This is an abnormal enlargement of a body part or area. Swelling may occur in response to infection, injury or disease.

OK, now say it with me. DCAP-BTLS: deformities, contusions, abrasions, punctures/penetrations, burns, tenderness, lacerations and swelling.

Do you like using medical abbreviations to recall information during on-scene patient care and assessment? Let us know what you prefer in the comments below.

About the author

EMS 101 articles are intended to educate a non-emergency medical services audience about the emergency medical services profession. These articles are written by EMS1 staff members and EMS1 contributors, and cover a wide range of topics from EMS protocols all paramedics & EMTs should follow to an overview of the necessary requirements for becoming a paramedic.

  1. Tags
  2. EMS Education
  3. EMS Training
  4. Medical / Clinical
  5. Patient Assessment
  6. Patient Care
  7. Trauma
  8. Trauma Assessment

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