An Overview of Trauma Center Levels and Disparities in Rural Trauma Care
Trauma centers in the United States focus on providing care to patients who have suffered injuries and may require critical care. These trauma centers are classified into five different levels: Level I to Level V. Level V trauma centers are the least comprehensive, providing minimal 24-hour care and resuscitation, and Level I trauma centers are the most comprehensive, accepting the most severely injured patients and always delivering care through the use of an attending surgeon. However, there is a major inequity in access to trauma centers across the United States, especially amongst rural residents. Level III to Level V trauma centers tend to be dominantly situated in rural and underserved areas. Furthermore, trauma centers tend to be widely dispersed with respect to rural areas. Therefore, these areas tend to have a greater mortality rate in relation to traumatic injuries. Improvements in access to high-tier traumatic care must occur in order to reduce mortality due to traumatic injuries in underserved rural areas. Possible improvements to rural trauma care include bolstering the quality of care in Level III trauma centers, increasing Level II center efficiency through the involvement of orthopedic traumatologists, placing medical helicopter bases in more strategic locations that enable transport teams to reach other trauma centers faster, building more Level I and Level II trauma centers, and converting Level III centers into either Level I or Level II centers.
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