-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, March 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The closure of
trauma centers across the United States is putting patients' lives
at risk, a new study contends.
Trauma centers specialize in the care of severely injured
patients. Over the last two decades, about one-third of the 1,125
trauma centers across the nation have closed, according to the
University of California, San Francisco researchers.
The investigators examined data from more than 270,000 patients
to assess the effects of the closures of three trauma centers in
California between 1999 and 2009.
After a trauma center closed, patients who had to travel farther
to reach the closest trauma center were 21 percent more likely to
die in hospital than those who did not have to travel far for
trauma care, the study found.
The risk of death was even higher -- 29 percent -- in the first
two years after a trauma center closed, according to the study
published March 13 in the
Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.
Meanwhile, a shorter travel time to the closest trauma center
was associated with a 17 percent lower risk of in-hospital death.
However, a longer travel time was associated with a 14 percent
higher risk of death.
Patients most likely to be affected by trauma center closures
were young, had low incomes, were members of racial or ethnic
minorities, and had Medi-Cal insurance, the study authors
"This study confirms that when trauma centers close, people who live in the surrounding areas are more likely to die following an injury," lead author Dr. Renee Hsia, an associate professor of emergency medicine, said in a UCSF news release.
"There have been an increasing number of trauma center closures in recent years, and these closures are associated with a higher risk of death in the affected communities," added Hsia, who is also an attending physician in the emergency department at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and a faculty member of the UCSF Institute for Health Policy Studies.
The American College of Emergency Physicians offers
injury prevention tips.
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