EMS Has a Role in Preventing Unnecessary Deaths from Trauma

traffic deaths graphic

Despite advances in prehospital and in-hospital care over the last half-century, trauma remains a leading cause of death in the U.S. Greater than 35,000 people die in traffic crashes each year, or about 4 every hour. One-fifth of those deaths, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), could be prevented if victims received optimal emergency and trauma care.

For example, evidence shows that seriously injured trauma victims have a 25% increase in the odds of survival if they are taken to a trauma center. NHTSA data show that over one third of seriously injured motor vehicle crash victims are not taken directly to a level 1 or 2 trauma center.

The Office of EMS recently released an infographic highlighting these statistics and the impact that first responders can have on improving outcomes for victims of motor vehicle crashes and other traumatic injuries. The infographic aims to raise awareness of the need for more research and collaboration to improve outcomes of motor vehicle crashes on the nation’s roadways.

NHTSA and the Office of EMS see an opportunity to save more trauma victim lives by:

  1. Transporting more severely injured trauma victims to level 1 or 2 trauma centers
  2. Implementing evidence-based guidelines for trauma care and destination decisions
  3. Supporting the development of a national trauma care system

“Though much work remains, the EMS community is collaborating to improve trauma care by collecting more data, determining best practices and creating a national trauma care system,” says Jon R. Krohmer, MD, Director of the NHTSA Office of EMS. “The transition to NEMSIS version 3 will improve local, state and national efforts to collect and analyze data related to treating and transporting crash victims and other trauma patients.”

Earlier this summer, the Office of EMS hosted a webinar on EMS and trauma care. Dr. Ronald Stewart, Chair of the Committee on Trauma for the American College of Surgeons, joined the panel to share the vision for a national trauma system proposed in the NASEM’s landmark report, A National Trauma Care System: Integrating Military and Civilian Trauma Systems to Achieve Zero Preventable Deaths After Injury. Dr. Stewart and Col. (ret.) John Holcomb, MD, Director of the Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute, also discussed how the military can work with EMS and civilian trauma centers to create a better trauma system for civilians and military personnel. Potential ways to improve include collaboration between military and civilian systems at local levels as well as the adoption in civilian EMS practices of lessons learned on the battlefield.

The NHTSA Office of EMS is committed to seeking ways to prevent deaths from trauma. NHTSA’s strategic plan for 2016-2020, titled “The Road Ahead”, contains five strategic goals, accompanied by objectives and measurable tactics. One of those goals is to save an additional 500 lives by enhancing crash recognition, response and emergency care. EMS and other first responders can play a lead role in accomplishing this goal and saving more lives of trauma victims throughout the country.