Tag Archives: pediatric trauma center

Adolescent Experience At Pediatric vs Adult Trauma Centers

A number of papers have addressed the clinical differences between adult trauma centers that provide care for children and pediatric trauma centers. For example, differences in TBI outcomes and solid organ injury management have been noted, to name a few. But I’ve seen very little written on the patient (and parent) experiences at these centers.

Adolescents exist between the adult and pediatric worlds. They frequently suffer injury from adult mechanisms like car crashes, interpersonal violence, and drugs/alcohol. But they are still developing from anatomic, physiologic, and psychosocial standpoints. So which trauma center is better for them? An adult center with more experience managing their injuries, or a pediatric center more attuned to their distinct psychosocial needs?

The surgery group at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, performed a prospective, 1.5 year study of adolescents (aged 15-17) and their caregivers when admitted to the local adult or pediatric trauma center. Enrollees received a survey eight weeks after discharge to glean details of their experience. This survey was a validated tool called the QTTAC-PREM ( Quality of Teen Trauma Care Patient Reported Experience Measure).

This survey was very comprehensive and clocked in at 31 pages in length! It included questions on visits by friends, interactions with hospital staff, schoolwork, pain control, mental health, privacy, and follow-up visits.

Here are the factoids:

  •  A total of 90 patients were enrolled; 51 were admitted to pediatric trauma centers and 39 to adult centers
  • Survey completion rates were reasonable, with 77 returned in the pediatric center group and 41 in the adult center group (surveys could be completed by the patient, their caregiver, or both)
  • Patients taken to the adult center were more seriously injured (56% with ISS>9 vs. 10%)
  • Overall, there were few differences in experience, but parents gave lower ratings for communication, follow-up care, and the overall hospital score
  • The adult trauma centers had poorer family accommodations, as noted by both the patients and their parents

Bottom line: This is a (somewhat) interesting study looking beyond the purely clinical differences in adult vs. pediatric trauma centers. It has some significant problems, although it is still possible to derive some valuable information. 

First, it was a survey. And a 31-page survey at that! I throw most one-page surveys I receive away without a thought. So the enrollment and return rates are guaranteed to be low. Next, it was performed during the height of COVID, which changed everything. Fewer patients presented to the hospitals, and measures were in place, making them less friendly and accessible for patients and their caregivers. This could significantly alter any opinions of patient/parent experiences.

And finally, there are only two trauma centers in Calgary, one adult and one pediatric. So this study cannot be generalized easily to other centers in Canada or anywhere else in the world. In many ways, they are unique. So the actionable information contained in it is very limited. 

However, we can learn something. Communication is always an issue in hospitals. Pediatric centers are very familiar with dealing with parents, and adult centers would benefit by taking this page from their playbooks. Similarly, pediatric centers routinely provide housing for the parents, while adult centers have never had to prioritize this. 

A related question needs to be addressed: what about dual centers? That is, a combined Level I adult and Level I pediatric center. These hybrids are largely ignored, although they are more common in larger metropolitan areas. 

Regardless, ALL trauma centers can benefit from improved communication with their patients and accommodations for parents of pediatric patients.

Reference: Between Paradigms: Comparing experiences for adolescents treated at pediatric and adult trauma centres. Injury, published ahead of print, April 12, 2023.

If you are interested in the QTTAC-PREM questionnaire used in this study, you can find it in the supplemental data for this study:

Yeung M, Hagel BE, Bobrovitz N, Stelfox TH, Yanchar NL. Development of the quality of teen trauma acute care patient and parent-reported experience measure. BMC Res Notes. 2022 Sep 23;15(1):304. doi: 10.1186/s13104-022-06194-x. PMID: 36138467; PMCID: PMC9503226.

If you need help obtaining a copy, please feel free to email me.

Vascular Trauma Resources At Pediatric Trauma Centers

There are two types of pediatric trauma centers: freestanding and combined. These adjectives refer to whether an adult trauma center is directly associated with the pediatric one. Over the years, I have come to appreciate that there may be substantial resource and experience differences between the two.

Trauma surgeons at freestanding centers are usually pediatric surgeons. They have managed trauma cases during their surgical residency and pediatric surgical fellowship, but usually have not taken a trauma fellowship. Their experience with complex trauma and advanced concepts like damage control surgery generally comes from their training and on the job experience. Surgeons at combined centers may be pediatric trained, or may be adult surgeons with pediatric experience. The adult surgeons are generally well-versed in advanced trauma concepts, and the pediatric surgeons can take advantage of the adult surgeons’ expertise in advanced trauma cases.

Freestanding pediatric centers may have fewer resources in some key areas, such as fellowship trained specialists in vascular surgery, GI endoscopy, and interventional radiology. A recent study accepted for publication from the University of Arkansas examines differences in surgeon practice patterns and resource availability at freestanding vs combined centers.

Two surveys were sent to 85 pediatric trauma centers around the US. Roughly half were Level I, and half were freestanding. One was sent to 414 pediatric surgeons at those centers inquiring about practice patterns, and the other was sent to the trauma medical directors of each center asking about their resources.

Here are the factoids:

  • 50 of the 85 trauma centers responded, as did 176 of the 414 surgeons. 48% of trauma medical directors responded. These are reasonable response rates for questionnaires.
  • Adult surgeons covered pediatric trauma at 6% of Level I centers, and 33% of Level II
  • During pediatric surgical fellowship, 56% participated in management of vascular trauma, 25% was managed by vascular surgeons, and 19% had no experience
  • At 23% of freestanding centers, vascular surgeons were not always available, and a vascular surgeon was not listed on the call schedule 38% of the time
  • 27% of freestanding facilities indicated that endovascular and stent capabilities were not available, and 18% did not have interventional radiologists (IR) available within 30 minutes
  • All combined centers had vascular and endovascular capabilities, and IR was available within 30 minutes 92% of the time

Bottom line: This is an intriguing paper that looks at a few of the disparities between freestanding and combined pediatric trauma centers. Obviously, it is hampered by the survey format, but does provide some interesting information. The focus was on vascular resources, and shows several of the major differences between the two types of centers.

Fortunately, vascular trauma is relatively rare in the pediatric age group. But it is possible that a child presenting to a freestanding pediatric trauma center may be managed by a pediatric surgeon with little vascular experience, and assistance from a fellowship trained vascular surgeon and/or interventional radiologist may be unavailable.

This paper provides important information regarding resource disparities in pediatric trauma care. Ideally, this should be reviewed and remedied as the Resources for Optimal Care of the Injured Patient (Orange Book) evolves over the coming years.

Reference: Pediatric Vascular Trauma Practice Patterns and Resource Availability: A Survey of ACS-Designated Pediatric Trauma Centers. J Trauma, accepted for publication Jan 12, 2018.

Where Are All The Pediatric Trauma Centers?

I have constructed this map from available resources from the American College of Surgeons and numerous state agencies. ACS verified pediatric centers have a diamond in their icon; Level I is red and Level II is yellow. Non-ACS centers are pink (Level I) or blue (Level II). The Level I pediatric center at Regions Hospital is the green star.

I have made every attempt at accuracy, but things do change. If I have omitted any centers or misclassified them, please leave a comment or email me!

Pediatric Trauma Mortality and Pediatric Trauma Centers

There are only about 45 Pediatric Trauma centers in the United States. They are clustered in the Northeast, in the central Midwest, and along the west coast. This poses a problem for parents located in the rest of the country.

In contrast, there are nearly 500 adult trauma centers, scattered much more evenly across the country. All adult centers that treat more than 100 children per year are required to have basic pediatric trauma resources, such as a pediatric ICU and intensivists to man it. 

A growing body of research shows that adults and children with major trauma do better if treated at an adult trauma center. Is there an advantage to having your child treated at a pediatric trauma center?

The answer is yes! A paper published in 2008 looked at children admitted to hospitals in Florida over a 10 year period. They found that children and young adults did better when admitted to a trauma center when compared to a non-trauma hospital, although the effect was less in younger children. The overall survival improvement was about 3%. 

When treated at a pediatric trauma center, survival increased an additional 4%! The reasons are not entirely clear, because these studies do not have the ability to discern specifics. However, it appears that a combination of resource availability (present in all Level I and II trauma centers) and specialty capabilities (only present in hospitals with pediatric resources) is key.

Most children with injuries serious enough to require hospitalization can be treated at any trauma center. Those who have critical injuries that require considerable aftercare (severe brain injury, complex orthopedic/pelvic injuries) are best treated at a designated pediatric trauma center if one is available.

Reference: Do pediatric patients with trauma in Florida have reduced mortality rates when treated in designated trauma centers? Tepas, Flint et al. J Pediatric Surgery, 43, 212-221, 2008.