What is a Trauma Center?

A trauma center is an area of a hospital with the equipment and staff to treat the most critical injuries that put the patient’s life is in immediate danger. Trauma centers are usually located within the hospital emergency room.

Who Needs Trauma Care?

Trauma centers treat a vast variety of catastrophic injuries such as:

  • car and motorcycle crashes
  • drowning
  • gunshot wounds
  • serious falls
  • severe burns
  • spinal cord injuries
  • stab wounds
  • traumatic brain injuries
  • violent assaults

Trauma Center Levels

There are 5 levels of trauma centers: I, II, III, IV and V (or 1, 2, 3 ,4 and 5). In all states, Level I is the highest. In some states, Level III is the lowest. Some states have five trauma center designations, and in these states Level V is lowest.

A trauma center’s level is determined by a two-step process: designation and verification. The designation guidelines vary from state to state, based on the trauma resources available at the hospital and the number of adult trauma patients admitted each year. There are additional criteria for pediatric trauma centers.

The American College of Surgeons (ACS administers the trauma center Verification, Review, and Consultation Program, a process designed to help hospitals evaluate and improve the quality of trauma care. After confirming that a trauma center has all the resources in place for a particular level designation as outlined in the program’s standards, ACS issues a certificate of verification that is valid for three years.)

The highest-level trauma centers can provide a wide range of emergency medicine, specialized surgeries and critical care services using advanced diagnostic and surgical equipment. Lower-level trauma centers may only provide initial care for a traumatic injury then arrange for the patient to be transferred to a higher-level trauma center.