The San Diego Trauma System
Hospital Minds Meet to Save Lives
The La Jolla Light, February 28, 2002
by Lance Vargas

Sustaining a trauma injury is a situation that nobody wishes to find themselves in. However, if the circumstance does occur, San Diego County residents can rest assured that the care provided to them is among the finest in the world.

The San Diego Trauma System is an internationally-recognized coalition that assures any trauma patient admitted will receive the most thorough and precise treatment possible. It is a coalition of six area hospitals - Scripps La Jolla, Mercy, UCSD, Sharp, Grossmont and Children's - who openly share data, statistics and information concerning their trauma wards.

Types of information exchanged include times of admittance and discharge of all trauma patients, the types of trauma the patient experienced, the method by which the patient was transported from the scene of the trauma to the hospital, how long the transportation took and many other such statistics. For any given injury, the age, sex and race of the victim is logged along with the location of the accident, time of day that it occurred and the severity of each injury. Every statistic is gone over, with virtually nothing left out.

Individually, aspects of an accident such as these may seem insignificant, but when studied collectively by a group of practitioners and administrators, they present vital clues needed to drive the rate of preventable deaths down and p"wide the best care possible to incoming trauma victims.
The information gathered from each of San Diego County's six participating trauma units is analyzed monthly and used to pinpoint problem areas or identify excellence. There are also weekly rounds that exist to discuss particularly puzzling or interesting medical cases.

"Our trauma system was designed and committed to provide (optimal trauma care)...(lt) provides the safety net for all critically inured persons in San Diego county this public service is not unlike our fire and police departments," said Dr Brent Eastman, M.D. Chief Medical Officer and the
N. Paul Whittier Chair of Trauma.

The need for an overhaul of trauma treatment in San Diego carne to light in 1984 after the percentage of"preventable deaths" for San Diego trauma patients was found to be at the sky-high rate of 20 percent

"Prevenlabte deaths" is a phrase attributed to any patient death that may have been avoided if the proper trama care had been administered within the first 60 minutes (referred to as 'the golden hour') of injury. The system was formed as a means to bring this percentage down to its lowest posslble rate.

Another aspect of the San Diego system that benefits local patients is the fact that each hospital has a catchment area where it is responsible for any traumatic injuries that may occur.

Scripps La Jolla's area is from Pacific Beach to the county line. Therefore, any trauma injuries that occur in that zone are routed to Scripps. If Scripps is busy with other emergencies, it is placed on "bypass." Any injuries that occur in the bypassed hospital's area will then be routed to another hospital in the system. Only hospitals within the system will receive trauma cases. Therefore, if an traumatic accident occurs in the parking lot of Grossmont hospital, the patient will be taken to a hospital with a trauma center rather than Grossmont. It is a case of getting a patient to the hospital that is best equipped to handle the needs of the patient, rather than simply the closest available.

The success of the San Diego County Trauma system can't be denied In its first two decades, it has driven the rate of preventable deaths down to less than one percent, and has been used as a model on which other trauma systems in the world base their programs.

Dr. Fred Simon, clinical director of Trauma at Scripps La Jolla, adds a degree of personal devotion to his comments about the system. "What a lot of people in San Diego are unaware of is that they are being serviced by a system that has been internationally recognized as providing the best trauma care available. Because of the forethought of the founding practitioners who developed it and led it through the past two decades, " he said. "I know living in San Diego County that I am restful and assured that if my family were seriously injured, they will receive the best care in the world."

<return to top> <close window>