Think about some things you didn't know you needed ... or hoped you'd never need ... until you do. A fire extinguisher. A clone of your toddler's stuffed animal; the one that you lost on vacation and she can't sleep without. A digital assistant, such as Ask Google, Siri or Alexa. Yep, pretty smart thinking on your part to have these items on hand in a situation. That's how it is with trauma centers. We hope you never need one, but if you or someone you love suffers a serious or life-threatening injury, it's nice to know there are a number of them around North Texas.

Why we need trauma centers.

According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 30 Texans die every day from injuries — about 10,000 each year. Traumatic injuries are the leading cause of death in persons aged 1 to 44 years old. For every trauma victim who dies, at least six are seriously injured. These sobering statistics demonstrate that having a trauma center nearby can mean the difference between life and death for no less than 60,000 Texans annually.

Where trauma centers are located.

Not every hospital is a trauma center, as the resources and staff required to maintain one require a true commitment to providing comprehensive regional care for every aspect of injury — from prevention through rehabilitation. Therefore, trauma centers are located in hospitals equipped with specific resources and trauma specialists. These trauma experts are specially trained to provide treatment and care to severely injured patients. Traumatic injuries can include motor vehicle accidents and falls, among others.

Trauma center services complement traditional hospital and emergency department services and enhance the level of care that hospitals provide to the communities they serve.

The process to becoming a designated trauma center is voluntary. Hospitals seeking the designation must operate as a trauma center for one year before they can apply for verification by the American College of Surgeons.

Trauma center levels.

Trauma centers are categorized by levels, from I through IV. Level I is the highest level of trauma care for the most seriously injured patients. In North Texas, the first and only hospital in Collin County to achieve Level I Trauma Center classification is Medical City Plano, which received verification from the American College of Surgeons and designation from the Texas Department of State Health Services in May 2017.

Trauma surgeon Matt Carrick, MD, trauma director at Medical City Plano, explains the difference in trauma levels and why having a Level I trauma center in Collin County is so important to the community.

According to the American Trauma Society, elements of a Level I trauma center include:

  • 24-hour in-house coverage by general surgeons and prompt availability of specialties such as orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine, plastic surgery, oral and maxillofacial, pediatric and critical care
  • Providing leadership in prevention and public education to surrounding communities
  • Providing continuing education for the trauma team members.
  • Operating an organized teaching and research effort to help advance innovations in trauma care
  • Providing a program for substance abuse screening and patient intervention
  • Operating as a referral resource for communities in nearby regions

What to do if you need emergency care.

  • Call 911 for potentially life-threatening situations
  • Head to the ER for more serious injuries and illnesses that are not life threatening but require the specially skilled people and equipment found only in emergency rooms
  • When in doubt, call 911 or go to the nearest ER

It can often be difficult to know when to go to the ER, especially when children are involved. Here are some helpful links:

Medical City Healthcare has 7 trauma centers located throughout the DFW area.

Medical City Plano's Trauma I designation is strongly connected to its burn center, the first and only unit of its kind in Collin County.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most. You can also call our free 24/7 Ask-A-Nurse hotline for less critical health-related questions.

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