If you’re seriously hurt in a car wreck, a lawn mower mishap or knife fight, your chances of survival are higher if you quickly get to a Level I trauma center.
Upstate University Hospital is the only Level I trauma center within the 14 counties of Central New York. Paramedics know this, so if your injury is severe and renders you unconscious, the ambulance likely will bring you to Upstate. If you are not near Upstate, you may first be stabilized at an outlying hospital and then transferred to Upstate.
Trauma centers didn’t exist until physicians began studying the survival of trauma patients in the late 1960s. They discovered people who would have lived if they had not bled to death and others who would have lived if they had been able to breathe. That led to the concept of the “golden hour,” the time within which trauma patients need definitive care for the best odds of survival.
Officials from the American College of Surgeons visit Upstate every three years for an extensive evaluation that ensures that staff are capable of providing the highest level of medical care for adults and children 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Trauma patients receive prompt attention when they arrive at Upstate University Hospital.
— Imaging scans that are needed are obtained immediately, most in a suite in the emergency department.
— A surgeon with expertise in trauma and critical care can be at the bedside of the most severely injured patients within 15 minutes. Since most traumatic injuries are unique, having a doctor with a wide range of experience caring for trauma patients is valuable.
— An operating room is always available for immediate surgery if necessary.
— Specialty doctors, such as orthopedic surgeons or plastic surgeons, are available within a half hour.
Upstate also maintains an intensive care unit staffed by trauma surgeons trained in critical care and a burn unit staffed by physicians with expertise in burn care, plus a rehabilitation unit if the injuries require extensive recovery.
Staff at a Level I trauma center care for people with severe injuries, but they apply that same expertise to those with minor traumatic injuries — making the trauma center the best place to go for treatment of any trauma.
This article appears in the spring 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazine. Hear a radio interview/podcast about the trauma center with Upstate surgeon William Marx, DO, chief of trauma, critical care and burns; and nurse Jolene Kittle, trauma program manager.