A trauma center is an area of a hospital that’s equipped to treat the most high-risk of injuries \u2014\u00a0think gunshot wounds, serious car crash injuries, and major burns.\nIf you experience physical trauma, you’ll receive treatment through a hospital’s emergency department \u2014 but not all emergency departments are created equal. In addition to providing emergency care, some hospitals also function as trauma centers, and they’re staffed by specially trained health professionals who treat life-threatening injuries.\nTrauma centers offer more extensive care than emergency departments, and the difference between a trauma center and emergency room can be life and death. So, it’s important to understand what these facilities offer.\nThe Difference Between Trauma Centers and Emergency Rooms\nTrauma centers are typically located within hospitals, often in the emergency department. Emergency rooms provide care to people suffering injuries ranging from a sprained\u00a0ankle to a heart attack \u2014 and they are staffed with doctors, nurses, and medical experts who handle a variety of conditions.\nTrauma centers, on the other hand, are for patients with the most extreme injuries. At trauma centers, you’ll find highly trained clinicians who specialize in treating traumatic injuries, including:\n\nTrauma surgeons\nNeurosurgeons\nOrthopedic surgeons\nCardiac surgeons\nRadiologists\nRegistered nurses\n\nThey staff the center 24\/7 and have access to resources such as an operating room, resuscitation area, laboratory, and diagnostic testing equipment. They are always prepared to treat patients.\nWhen should you go to a trauma center?\nIn the most serious circumstances, paramedics must evaluate a patient’s condition and decide where they go for care.\nTrauma centers treat:\n\nGunshot and stab wounds\nMajor burns\nTraumatic car crash injuries\nBlunt trauma\nBrain injuries\n\nEmergency rooms treat:\n\nBroken bones\nFainting or loss of consciousness\nHeart attacks\nLess severe burns\nStrokes\nSevere vomiting, stomach pains, and\/or diarrhea\n\nTrauma Center Levels\nThere are five different levels of trauma centers in the United States, but they can vary from state to state, and not every state recognizes all five levels. Pennsylvania only recognizes Levels I through IV, for example.\nThe American Trauma Society describes the five levels as:\n\nLevel I: The center provides total care, from prevention through rehabilitation. These also offer a teaching program for medical residents, as well as ongoing research.\nLevel II: The center is similar to a Level I trauma center but doesn’t necessarily offer teaching or research. Both Levels I and II can treat either children or adults.\nLevel III: The center is smaller than Level I and II centers but can provide prompt care to injured patients.\nLevel IV: The center can provide trauma care and life support before patients are transferred to a larger, higher-level trauma center.\n\nHow are trauma centers accredited?\nAll trauma centers must be accredited (officially recognized) by an independent organization. This accreditation varies by state. In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation has overseen the accreditation of hospitals since 1986.\nWhat Is a Trauma System?\nA trauma system includes many different facilities and services that work together to provide a full range of care for those who are severely hurt. For example, a trauma system might include a Level I trauma center, emergency medical services, rehabilitation centers, and prevention organizations. These systems are typically organized by geographic area.\nTrauma Care at UPMC\nUPMC Mercy and UPMC Presbyterian are both Level I trauma centers, while UPMC Hamot and UPMC Altoona are Level II. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh serves as a Level I pediatric trauma center. Trauma centers at UPMC are equipped to treat the most seriously injured patients, with operating rooms and specially trained doctors and nurses ready at all times.\nUPMC has written the book on trauma care \u2014 literally. \u00a0Andrew Peitzman, M.D., of UPMC published “The Trauma Manual” 1998. The book, currently available in its 4th edition, is the first comprehensive guide to trauma center care. The manual includes sections on the specifics of patient injury and resuscitation, as well as common problems that trauma staff may encounter with a high-risk patient.\nLearn more about these services by visiting the UPMC Trauma Care System website.