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Level 1 Trauma Centers
Represent Lifeline for the Seriously Injured
Traumatic injuries — body damage from a
physical impact or accident such as a motor-
vehicle accident, gunshot wound, blunt force
or drowning — represent the leading cause
of death of children and adults in the U.S.
1 to 44 years of age, according to the Centers
for Disease Control. While most injuries can
be effectively treated at local emergency
departments, receiving care at a Level 1 trauma
center may lower the risk of death by as much
as 25 percent for the most-severe cases.
“A Level 1 trauma center represents the highest
level of emergency care because we have all of
the resources available to take care of any kind
of traumatic injury, 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week, 365 days a year,” says Mark Morocco,
M.D., an emergency-medicine physician at
Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, one of
six Level 1 trauma centers in the Los Angeles
area. “When patients with life-threatening
injuries make it to a Level 1 trauma center
within 60 minutes of their injury, sometimes
referred to as the ‘golden hour,’ they have
significantly better survival rates”
Dr. Morocco says.
Trauma centers are tiered as levels 1 to 4
based on the types of care available.
Level 1 trauma centers have the resources to
provide total care for every aspect of injury.
Key components include 24-hour in-house
coverage by general surgeons and immediate
availability of specialty care, such as orthopaedic
surgery, neurosurgery, cardiovascular surgery,
pediatric surgery and critical care. But,
according to Dr. Morocco, patients should
focus on getting help quickly rather than on
the level of the trauma center where
they seek care.
“It’s always best, if you can, to call 9-1-1
or go to the nearest emergency room and
let professionals figure it out,” he says.
“Emergency-medicine specialists will know
what to do in terms of immediate, on-the-
scene care and will follow established
criteria about where to take the most-
seriously injured patients.”
Dr. Morocco also recommends that people take
safety precautions to prevent serious injuries,
such as wearing seat belts while driving,
enabling car air bags and avoiding places
where they may be exposed to drugs,
alcohol and/or firearms.
Vital Signs Winter 2013 Vol. 57