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Published on May 06, 2013

Recent Tragic Events Raise Awareness of the Important Role of Trauma Centers

The horrific bombings that occurred during the Boston Marathon and other recent tragic events have left everyone asking endless questions. In the aftermath, though, it is clear that the quick, effective work of several trauma centers saved many lives.

But what is a trauma center, and how do they work? Here’s a quick breakdown:

What is a trauma center?

A trauma center is a hospital that is equipped with the emergency medical services necessary to treat patients with traumatic injuries (a serious injury caused by an outside force), which is based upon a set of criteria established by the American College of Surgeons and individual state laws. It’s important to note that trauma centers can have varying levels of care, meaning that some might provide the full range of emergency trauma care in comparison to others who offer less trauma care. Centers are therefore categorized as Level I, Level II, or Level III.

“The true value of a trauma system is derived from the seamless transition between each phase of care, to achieve improved patient outcomes,” said Riad Cachecho, M.D., the medical director of the Crozer-Keystone Health System Trauma Program.

The hospitals that treated patients injured from the bombings all feature adult Level 1 trauma centers and Level 1 pediatric trauma centers, which means that they have a full range of specialists (from neurosurgeons to orthopedic surgeons), physicians, and anesthesiologists on duty 24/7. When a patient is treated in a trauma center, their chances of survival increase significantly.

Chester-Crozer Medical Center is a Level II Trauma Center. The Crozer Regional Trauma center is accredited by the Pennsylavnia Trauma System Foundation which ensures that we provide the highest level of trauma care. Crozer-Keystone also has an internationally recognized Burn Treatment Center.

What happens at a trauma center?

When someone suffers a traumatic injury, it is important to ensure that a patient arrives at any trauma center as quickly as possible – the goal is within 60 minutes, which is known as the “Golden Hour.”

“Trauma centers respond within minutes to care for trauma patients, thus saving their lives and minimizing long-term disability,” Cachecho says.

At Crozer-Keystone, the initial team that responds to a trauma call consists of a comprehensive range of professionals, including a trauma surgeon, an Emergency Department physician, an anesthesiologist, residents, emergency and trauma nurses, trauma service physician extenders, Radiology staff, respiratory therapists, a representative of the blood bank, a radiology technician, a social worker and more.

When a patient first arrives at Crozer, the team’s first goal is to save the person’s life. While the hospitals in Boston have seen injuries unlike any other they’ve treated before, medical principles discovered when treating troops in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan provide doctors with an even greater chance of successfully treating blast injuries.

And if you’re wondering if their hospitals are overwhelmed by an overflow of patients, Boston’s emergency response plan ensures that patients are divided among available hospitals.

“The four trauma centers in Boston were large enough to absorb this extraordinary number of trauma patients,” Cachecho says. The fact that there were so many large trauma centers available was rare, however. “Forty-five million Americans have no immediate access to Level I and II trauma centers.”

In addition to physically treating and hopefully stabilizing the patient, the trauma team deals with the emotional needs of loved ones as well.

What’s also important in the trauma center is the need to take care of patient’s family members. At Crozer, social workers help families as they cope with a loved one’s injuries and prepare them for what to expect.

The need to communicate will be just as important for trauma staff as well, and considering the war-like injuries sustained by many in the marathon bombings, it’s crucial for employees to talk about their feelings as well. That's why Crozer-Keystone offers a Caregiver Support Team.

Cachecho also makes an important note about governmental support for trauma care. He says that Congress authorized $224 million to fund the trauma system under sections 1201-4, 1211-32, 1241-32, 1241-46 and 1281-2. This money was not appropriated in FY 2013. “We are asking the Congress in this difficult fiscal environment to include $28 million of implementation funding for the trauma and emergency medical services programs as authorized under the law. This will allow for sustaining the existing trauma centers and for establishing new ones in the under served areas in the US,” Cachecho says.

For more information about the Crozer Regional Trauma Center, visit http://ckhstrauma.crozerkeystone.org.

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