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What is a Trauma Center?

What is trauma? In the case of a trauma center, “trauma” refers to a serious or critical bodily injury. The most common causes of injury that bring patients to a trauma center are falls and motor vehicle crashes. These events cause life-threatening trauma in multiple areas of the body. Other common causes of injury include burns, gunshot wounds and assaults.

What is a Trauma center?

Trauma centers provide specialized medical services and resources to patients suffering from traumatic injuries. Appropriate treatment has been shown to reduce the likelihood of death or permanent disability to injured patients. Accredited trauma centers must be continuously prepared to treat the most serious life threatening and disabling injuries. Even though trauma centers are within hospitals, they are not intended to replace the traditional hospital and its emergency department for minor injuries. The Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia developed a video, Inside the Pediatric Trauma Center, which provides an example of the resources available in a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center.

How many levels of Trauma centers are there in Pennsylvania?

Trauma centers vary in their specific capabilities and are identified by “Level” designation. In Pennsylvania there are four levels of trauma centers.

Level I trauma centers provide multidisciplinary treatment and specialized resources for trauma patients and require trauma research, a surgical residency program and an annual volume of 600 major trauma patients per year.

Level II trauma centers provide similar experienced medical services and resources but do not require the research and residency components. Volume requirements are 350 major trauma patients per year.
Level III trauma centers are smaller community hospitals that have services to care for patients with moderate injuries and the ability to stabilize the severe trauma patient in preparation for transport to a higher level trauma center. Level III trauma centers do not require neurosurgical resources.

Level IV trauma centers are able to provide initial care and stabiliztion of traumatic injury while arranging transfer to a higher level of trauma care.
Level I and II trauma centers can also be categorized as either Adult Trauma Centers or Pediatric Trauma Centers.

How do Trauma centers differ from regular hospitals?

The major component that differentiates a regular hospital from one that is a trauma center is the requirement for 24-hour availability of a team of specially trained health care providers who have expertise in the care of severely injured patients. These providers may include trauma surgeons, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, cardiac surgeons, radiologists and nurses. Specialty resources may also include 24-hour availability of a trauma resuscitation area in the emergency department, an operating room, laboratory testing, diagnostic testing, blood bank and pharmacy.

Hospitals who pursue trauma center accreditation must comply with the Standards of Accreditation. An aggressive trauma care accreditation process is required to assure trauma care is delivered according to established standards of care.