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2013-3 Trauma Systems

Trauma continues to be a leading cause of death for all age groups.  Receiving care for a severe injury at a designated/verified trauma center can lower risk of death by 25 percent, yet almost 45 million Americans do not have access to a trauma center within one hour of becoming injured (CDC). The lack of adequate health care infrastructure to serve trauma patients leads to preventable deaths and calls for an expanded, more accessible, trauma system in many areas of the country.


The primary goal of a trauma system is to have the right patient get the right care at the right time.   Within a geographic area a trauma system encompasses pre hospital notification and treatment, acute hospital care and access to rehabilitation services when needed. 


Trauma Centers are an important component of a trauma system and have the resources and expertise to provide the needed acute hospital care.  Although systems vary from state to state, trauma centers may range from Level I to Level IV.  Level I regional resource trauma centers have the ability to care for all injured patients and are frequently found in metropolitan areas.  At the other end of the spectrum, Level IV centers are usually located in rural areas and are adept at rapid assessment, stabilization and transfer when additional care is needed.


Trauma systems not only provide immediate care for a patient after experiencing an injury; trauma systems benefit the community in other ways.  Tools like the National Trauma Data Bank, an extensive collection of trauma data, provides the data which is crucial in forming local, state and national standards and  policies, which work to prevent trauma from happening and better treat patients when trauma does occur.  With an added focus on prevention and the health of a patient post-acute medical care, trauma systems also invest in injury prevention strategies and policies supporting the physical and emotional health of trauma victims post discharge from acute care.


Overall, trauma systems concentrate resources to provide optimal care of the injured regardless of injury type, severity, or patient economic resources.  Trauma Systems are a vital public health resource that improves patient outcome and decreases the costs of their care. 


The American Trauma Society believes:

  • Trauma systems reduce morbidity and mortality rates among trauma patients.
  • All Americans should have access to a trauma system.
  • Trauma systems need to be expanded to serve all Americans.
  • Existing trauma systems need to be properly maintained to ensure future and long-term sustainability.
  • Inter-facility transfer agreements among different level trauma centers, and between trauma centers and community hospitals decrease the risk of death from traumatic injuries.
  • Federal and State funding/support of Trauma Systems is essential to their continued coordination and development.



  1. Hoyert DL, Xu JQ. Deaths: Preliminary data for 2011. National vital statistics reports; vol 61 no 6. Hyattsville, MD: National Center forHealth Statistics. 2012.
  2. Resources for Optimal Care of the Injured Patient, Committee on Trauma American College of Surgeons. 2006
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