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Trauma Center

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a trauma?

Trauma is “any physical injury” to human tissues and organs caused by transfer of energy from the environment. 

How do patients get injured? 

Causes of injury range from high speed car crashes, penetrating injuries, to falls while standing.  All can cause life-threatening injuries. 

Is trauma a major health concern?

Across the country more than 29 million people visit emergency departments for injuries.  Recent data from CDC shows that there are more than 180,000 from injury deaths each year that is 1 person every 3 minutes.  Trauma is the leading cause of death in ages 1-44, the 5th leading cause of death for all ages, and the 5th leading cause of disability.  Trauma is a major public health issue.

Who is considered a trauma patient?

A trauma patient is anyone who has suffered an injury. Injuries can range from cuts, bumps and bruises to serious life-threatening physical injuries like bleeding within the brain and lacerations to organs.  The injuries also range from minor to life-threatening.  Critically injured ill patients should be transported to the closest trauma center rather than to the nearest hospital which may not be equipped to treat such patients.  Stable and less critically injured patients from falls, car crashes, and sports injuries can also benefit from receiving care at a Trauma Center.  If needed, they would receive care by the same trauma experts and services. 

What is a trauma center?

A trauma center is a specialized hospital that provides the advanced care required for trauma patients. In Massachusetts to be a licensed trauma center the hospital must be inspected a team from the American College of Surgeons and verified to have all the resources they consider critical to provide optimal trauma care.  A trauma center also offers resources in injury prevention, disaster preparedness, and quality improvement.

What does it take to be designated as a trauma center?

  • Commitment by hospital and staff to provide resources needed for optimal trauma care
  • Trauma surgeons, Emergency Department physicians, and hundreds of dedicated physicians, nurses, specialists and technicians to provide trauma care  24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Designated in-hospital trauma team and trauma resuscitation room
  • Operating room and blood bank immediate available
  • Trauma program staff include the Trauma Medical Director, Trauma Program Manager, injury Prevention Coordinator, and trauma registrar
  • Multiple medical and surgical specialists
  • Radiology and CT scan  available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Intensive care units (ICUs)
  • Trauma-related education for public, medical staff, nursing staff, and pre-hospital providers
  • Trauma registry
  • Community outreach, education, and prevention programs
  • Quality improvement program which includes sharing data with to the National Trauma Data Base and the MA Department of Public Health for quality monitor and benchmarking.

What is the difference between an Emergency Department and a Trauma Center?

An Emergency Department is the part of a hospital where patients go when they are sick or injured to receive immediate care.  Emergency Departments provide care for a wide range of patients from lacerations and broken bones to cardiac arrests.  They are especially trained to stabilize critical patients and emergencies from heart attacks, strokes and trauma.

A trauma center is a hospital where staff is trained and specialized in the treatment and stabilization of injured patients.  Trauma Centers provide advanced and specialized services required in trauma care. 

What is a Trauma System?

A trauma system is a state wide collaboration between the Department of Public Health Office of Emergency Medical Services, ambulance services, Massachusetts hospitals and licensed trauma centers working to insure that the trauma care provided to any person injured in Massachusetts is top quality. This is done by state and regional trauma committees working with the Department of Public Health to develop protocols, standards of care, regulations, and designating trauma centers.

How does a hospital get designated as a “trauma center”

In Massachusetts a hospital must put in place all the criteria and services required by the American College of Surgeons to be verified as Trauma Centers.  Then a visiting team of trauma surgeons goes to the hospital to “verify” that indeed the hospital meets all the required criteria and provides optimal care.  Once the hospital is “verified”, the hospital earns the title of “designated trauma center” from MA DPH and is licensed as a Trauma Center

What are the different trauma designations?

  • Level  I  - Provides definitive, 24-hour care for critically injured patients, is a regional resource hospital, conducts trauma-related research, has additional resources’ and is university-based teaching hospital with residents.
  • Level  II - Provides initial definitive care 24 hours care regardless of injury severity, must have the services needed to provide comprehensive care and usually is full-service, community-based regional medical centers.
  • Level III - Provides prompt assessment, emergency stabilization which may include surgery, or may make arrangements to transfer patients to a higher level Trauma Center to provide definitive care.

What is the Trauma Field Triage and Point of Entry?

The Trauma Field Triage and Point of Entry protocol regulates that ambulances transport critically injured patients to the closest trauma center rather than to the nearest hospital which may not be equipped to treat such patients.  The protocol adapted by DPH OEMS for the Boston, South Shore, and the Cape can be found by visitng SouthEastern Massachusetts EMS Council and search for trauma field triage.


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