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Trauma Center Study May Change Las Vegas Paramedic Procedures

A new study published in the Annals of Surgery has Las Vegas medical officials scrambling to see if they should change the way that emergency cases are handled in the city.

The study found that patients who are taken to a level-one trauma center are 20 percent less likely to die from their injuries than patients taken to a level-two trauma center for the same injuries. Under current medical and paramedic procedures, patients are taken to both the University Medical Center trauma unit (level one) and the Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center trauma facility (level two). The patients are taken to whichever hospital is closest to their place of injury.

The nationally conducted study consisted of patients with similar traumas to the heart, blood vessels, liver, pelvis fractures, and quadriplegia.

A study of the area hospitals found that the Sunrise Hospital had all elements necessary to be a level one trauma center except for two: a general surgery residency program and the ability to perform replant surgeries.

Level-one centers have the above elements plus act as regional academic trauma centers. Other elements necessary include a cardiac surgery program, microvascular and replantation surgery, and extensive academic research in trauma. Level-one centers must have 24-hour operating rooms and an onsite ICU doctor.

Whether the study takes into account elements particular to Las Vegas remains to be seen. Doctors and medical officials are looking into the possibility for making categories for patients to fall into and then having them go to either a level-one or level-two facility depending on the extent of their injuries.

Critics of the study say that this would give paramedics the authority to determine a patient’s level of injury. A physician, according to the critic’s arguments, should only make this judgment call.