Trauma kills more Americans from age 1 to 34 than all diseases combined. Until recently, trauma care in the United States was delivered in a nonorganized, nonintegrated fashion, with trauma victims being transported to the medical facility closest to the scene of the accident. Many recent studies confirm an unacceptably high incidence-up to 75% in some studies-of preventable deaths in trauma victims treated under the nearest hospital system. This has resulted in the development of specialized trauma centers. The concept of a regional trauma center requires restrictive medical practice in which a limited number of hospitals and physicians provide care for those 5% to 12% of patients who are critically injured. The decision on whether to take a patient to the closest hospital or to the regional trauma center is a form of triage, with far-reaching consequences medically, ethically, and financially, Various triage instruments have been developed to try to identify those patients who would benefit from the resources of a trauma center, and to avoid overcrowding those centers with patients having less serious injuries. These triage tools are based on a combination of mechanism of injury, anatomic criteria, physiologic criteria, and co-morbidity factors.
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