Trauma Center vs. Emergency Department: What’s the Difference?

Trauma Center vs. Emergency Department: What’s the Difference?

If you have never been to a trauma center you may not understand that it is not the same as an emergency room. So, what are the differences between the two immediate health care facilities? Better yet, what makes a hospital a trauma center?

The Difference Between an ER and a Trauma Center

Since trauma centers are often accessed through an ER, patients are left to wonder where one department ends and the other begins.

Emergency departments diagnose and treat a full menu of conditions, injuries, and illnesses including heart attack, strokes, stomach pains, vomiting, broken bones and much more. But, for serious injuries often require trauma care. These severe impairments include, but are not limited to:

  • Animal attacks
  • Assaults
  • Brain damage
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Serious falls
  • Severe burns
  • Stab Wounds
  • Traumatic car crashes

Treatment for these potentially life-threatening injuries is beyond the realm of traditional ER departments. Emergency rooms serve as the first step for patients and many moves on to an inpatient unit, an operating room or intensive care.

Trauma centers not only treat a different type of injury, these departments have an expanded medical staff. Hospitals and freestanding emergency rooms that offer a trauma center have a rapid response time, centralized services and round the clock access, 7 days a week, to a specialized team of physicians and surgeons who care for critically injured patients. A standard trauma team often includes:

  • Trauma surgeons
  • Emergency medicine physicians
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Neurosurgeons
  • Orthopedic surgeons
  • Radiologists
  • Trauma nurse

All medical team members respond to a dedicated trauma bay with state-of-the-art resuscitation equipment.

In addition, patients being treated in the trauma center receive priority handling in terms of diagnostic testing such as digital imaging, ultrasounds, cat scans and receipt of blood products.