SEEK: Salford Environment for Expertise and Knowledge

Journal Article (Refereed)
January 2017

'The Glasgow coma scale and evidence-informed practice : a critical review of where we are and where we need to be

Braine, M & Cook, N 2017, ''The Glasgow coma scale and evidence-informed practice : a critical review of where we are and where we need to be', Journal Of Clinical Nursing, 26(1/2), pp.280-293.



Aims and Objectives

This critical review considers the evidence since the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) was first launched, reflecting on how that evidence has shaped practice. It illustrates the lack of clarity and consensus about the use of the tool in practice and draws upon existing evidence in order to determine the route to clarity for an evidence-informed approach to practice.


The GCS has permeated and influenced practice for over 40 years, being well-established worldwide as the key tool for assessing level of consciousness. During this time, the tool has been scrutinised, evaluated, challenged and relaunched in a plethora of publications. This has led to an insight into the challenges, and to some extent the opportunities, in using the GCS in practice but has also resulted in a lack of clarity.


This is a discursive paper that invites readers to explore and arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of the GCS in practice and is based on searches of Scopus, Web of Knowledge, PubMed, Science Direct and CINAHL databases.


While the GCS has been rivalled by other tools in an attempt to improve upon it, a shift in practice to those tools has not occurred. The tool has withstood the test of time in this respect, indicating the need for further research into its use and a clear education strategy to standardise implementation in practice.


Further exploration is needed into the application of painful stimuli in using the GCS to assess level of consciousness. Additionally, a robust educational strategy is necessary to maximise consistency in its use in practice.



SEEK Members

External Authors

Neal Cook

Publication Details

Journal Name
Journal Of Clinical Nursing