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New Trauma Center Provides State-of-the Art Care to Patients


By Michelle Brubaker   |   June 10, 2013

Every minute counts in a trauma center where the most severely injured patients are treated. To ensure the highest quality of comprehensive care to a growing patient population, UC San Diego Health has opened a new state-of-the art Level  1 Trauma Center that will improve efficiency and save trauma surgeons about 10 to twenty minutes of resuscitation time per patient.

“It is important for our trauma center to stay ahead of patient trends and technological advancements that are critical to the care we provide in an intense environment,” said Raul Coimbra, MD, PhD, chief, division of trauma/surgical critical care/burns at UC San Diego Health.  “Each second we effectively save with one patient, will be used to treat the next, making for a stronger workflow and collaboration with trauma surgeons and achieving the ultimate goal of improved patient care and survival rates.”

The remodeled trauma center includes four new bays, leading-edge technology in diagnostics and monitoring, digital imaging and an advanced internal communications system through flat screen monitors above each bay.

“This internal communications system gives one senior surgeon the ability to direct the resuscitation of four patients simultaneously at the different bays in the trauma center,” said Coimbra.  “The flat screens in our new bays also show images from right outside the hospital, where patients are delivered via ambulance.  This system, along with verbal communication with paramedics on scene, allows trauma surgeons to prepare in advance, so we have our treatment plan ready to execute when a patient arrives to the trauma center.”


The trauma center also now has a modern X-ray system, known as AGFA DX-D500, that delivers images straight into computers seconds after being taken, compared to the the older system where staff would wait 15 to 20 minutes for results.   

All cables and wires connected to equipment are strategically plugged into central towers that rotate for easy access yet leave the area clear of safety hazards for staff. 

“This was a crucial improvement made in the new center in order to maintain staff safety and the integrity of our patient care,” said Coimbra.

The trauma center currently admits more than 2,900 patients a year.  The expanded unit will address the continued growth of the trauma program and commitment to the community it serves in southwest San Diego, including Hillcrest, Downtown and  San Diego and Imperial Counties. 

The triage system qualifies an injury as traumatic by the changes in a patient’s vital signs and the severity of a condition such as with a head injury, chest trauma, abdominal trauma and an extremity injury. The trauma team also takes into consideration the age of the patient, as well as associate diseases such as respiratory problems and issues with blood clotting.

Trauma surgeons treat patient injuries that include falls, motor vehicle crashes, motorcycle crashes, assaults, gunshot wounds, stab wounds and burns.

The highly trained personnel and special facilities at UC San Diego Health’s Trauma Center are part of the collaborative effort of six countywide hospitals that make up the San Diego Trauma System. 

UC San Diego Health established as the region’s first Level 1 Trauma Center in 1976.  It is one of the top programs in the nation and has been utilized as a model for trauma centers around the world, including centers at the upcoming 2014 World Soccer Cup and 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Patients receive comprehensive care, such as trauma care, critical care, acute care and rehabilitation and are seen by a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including trauma surgeons, trauma nurses, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, plastic surgeons, otolaryngologists and spine specialists, among others.

Research shows that trauma is the leading cause of death in the nation for people ages one to 44, with health care costs totaling approximately $260 billion annually.

“Fewer than eight percent of hospitals in the United States have trauma centers, however, statistics show that wherever a trauma program is in place, death rates for trauma cases decrease by at least 25 percent,” said Coimbra.

The most effective measure against a traumatic injury is prevention, and the UC San Diego Health trauma team conducts and uses on-going research to implement programs regionally shown to reduce the mortality rate from traumatic injuries.

“The new trauma center will continue the success of our program’s mission and take it to even higher levels. Patients should feel confident knowing UC San Diego Health’s commitment to leading the way in providing outstanding trauma care to the community,” said Coimbra.

Related Specialties

Surgical Services

Trauma, Surgical Critical Care and Burns