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Could fewer trauma centers cost brain injury victims their lives?

Posted on in Catastrophic Injuries

When someone suffers a serious injury, like a brain injury, it is extremely important for them to get the medical attention they need. Often there are serious complications that cannot be seen by the naked eye. A brain injury victim needs the expertise of medical professionals in trauma centers.

But a recent study shows that many Americans are too far from trauma centers. While emergency rooms are beneficial for victims of a number of different injuries, many ERs are not equipped to deal with more complex injuries. What does that mean?

This could mean that victims of severe injuries have a greater risk of suffering permanent damage or even death. Experts in the field believe that the faster a victim can get the right medical help, the better chances they have of surviving.

Dr. Renee Hsia is both an ER doctor and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. She has been leading the study that looks at different rural communities and the distance to trauma centers. According to her team's research, a quarter of the nation's population is more than a half hour away from the closest trauma center.

In the past few years, a large number of trauma centers closed across the country. The reasons include fewer resources and a number of financial problems. Interestingly, the research shows that certain communities have been more impacted by the closures, such as areas with low-income families or uninsured individuals.

Trauma centers can save brain injury victims and victims of other severe injuries. But should more trauma centers be built? Do fewer trauma centers mean greater risk of death? These are questions that Dr. Hsia plans to focus on in the next stage of her research.

Source: Associated Press: "Study: 69M must travel longer to a trauma center," Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Oct. 5, 2011

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