What is a Trauma Center, and Why Would I Need One?

Trauma is one of the five leading causes of death for people ages 1 to 44.

Trauma includes any life-threatening and critical injury caused by force—often the result of a motor vehicle accident, gunshot, fall, fire/burn, or assault.

Trauma centers are usually located within the emergency department of a hospital. Trauma centers handle the extreme cases where there is an issue of immediate survival.

Seconds count in trauma care. There is a term, “the golden hour,” which refers to a time period lasting for one hour, or less, following traumatic injury. During that time there is the highest likelihood that prompt medical treatment will prevent death.

Medical teams in trauma centers include trauma surgeons and nurses, emergency physicians, and up to 16 physicians with specialties ranging from neurosurgery to gynecology, who are on standby. These highly-specialized surgeons work with the most advanced equipment to increase the likelihood of survival in the patients that are sent to their trauma center.

Trauma centers provide these specialized medical services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Pennsylvania has 38 accredited trauma centers across the state. During 2015 Pennsylvania trauma centers saved 96 percent of the 43,106 trauma patients they treated.

Since 1987, the expected survival rate in trauma patients has more than doubled, even with Pennsylvania trauma centers treating a yearly average of 40,000 patients. In the last decade, the number of people treated at trauma centers has continuously increased, while the death rate of patients treated at trauma centers has steadily decreased.

The Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation, under state law, develops standards to ensure quality care based on the American College of Surgeons guidelines for trauma centers. The foundation ensures that trauma centers comply with the guidelines and promote optimal outcomes for all patients they treat.