Trauma victims' survival may depend on which trauma center treats them

Patients who are taken to a level 2 trauma center after suffering serious injury are significantly more likely to die than comparable patients treated at a major level 1 trauma center, according to researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

Writing in the October issue of Annals of Surgery, the Keck School team compared outcomes of more than 12,250 patients with critical injuries who were admitted to level I or level II trauma centers across the nation. They found that patients in level I trauma centers were nearly 20 percent less likely to die than those in level II centers.

A level I facility is a regional academic trauma center and must meet much stricter criteria than a level II center. These requirements include a general surgery residency program, research in trauma, a cardiac surgery program and microvascular and replantation surgery. For 24 hours a day, the center must have a dedicated operating room, surgical personnel and a surgical intensive care unit (ICU) physician. The designation also requires a surgically directed and staffed ICU service, in-house computed tomography scan technician, magnetic resonance imaging, acute hemodialysis, a minimum annual volume of patients and extramural trauma educational activities.

The research team analyzed data from the National Trauma Data Bank, which is maintained by the Committee on Trauma of the American College of Surgeons and tracks information on types of injuries and outcomes at trauma centers nationwide. Patients in the study had major injuries, such as trauma to the heart, major vessels or liver, complex pelvis fractures or quadriplegia. The researchers took into account factors such as patient age, gender, mechanism of injury, injury severity and blood pressure on admission, as well as whether hospitals had large or small numbers of patient admissions.

In all, more than 25 percent of patients who entered level I facilities died of the

Contact: Kathleen O'Neil
University of Southern California

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