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Better trauma care could prevent permanent disabilities

Many disabilities are caused by severe injury to the head or spinal cord in accidents or falls. New research shows that individuals who are treated at high-level trauma centers are less likely to walk away with serious disabilities. Currently, San Diego, California offers some of the highest quality trauma care in the world, however there currently is no statewide coordinated system for high-level care.

While the research was conducted in Australia, the results are also relevant for patients in California and nationwide. The findings bolster existing evidence that patients fare better when they are treated under an organized system where hospitals, emergency rooms and state governments have coordinated plans for getting patients to appropriate treatment.

A Level 1 trauma center must meet certain requirements, like having a specific number of surgeons and specialists on duty 24 hours a day. Getting care at such a facility reduces the chances of death by 25%. The new research shows that it improves the chances of a "functional outcome" or less disability. Those treated at Level 1 centers tended to be less severely disabled one year later.

Organized trauma systems in the United States have had similar results and demonstrated that they are effective in decreasing death and disability through high quality of care. Individuals who have been involved in a car accident or who have been disabled because of brain or spinal cord injury may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. Investments in organized and localized care could also prevent disability and reduce those in need of benefits.

Source: Reuters, "High-level trauma care may limit disability," Amy Norton, May 5, 2012.

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