If you become seriously injured in a major accident, such as a car crash, you may be transported by helicopter to a trauma center. Some hospitals are designated as trauma centers are staffed with special experts to treat patients with the most serious life-threatening injuries, such as severe head trauma or bodily injuries from falling objects.
Trauma centers exist as part of organized trauma systems and are ranked in four designations, according to the level of equipment and staff expertise. Levels 3 and 4 trauma centers have limited facilities and may need to stabilize and transfer the sickest patients to higher levels of care. The most comprehensive services are available at Levels 1 and 2 trauma centers; Level 1 trauma centers also are required to conduct research on improving trauma care. To qualify as a Level 1 trauma center, a hospital must have a number of complex capabilities, including an emergency department, a high-quality intensive care ward, an operating room staffed around the clock and access to advanced equipment. Levels 1 or 2 trauma centers have trauma surgeons and other medical specialists, such as neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons available around the clock at a moment’s notice.
Emergency physicians and trauma surgeons work together as a team for patients. Many lives have been saved of people injured in remote areas who have been flown or transported to trauma centers. Yet some parts of the country are underserved by trauma centers and expert trauma care may be many miles away from the injured person. Some have closed or downgraded their designations over funding issues.