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Trauma Center

Hillcrest ER trauma center sign

A traumatic injury or illness can happen at any time — that’s why we’re here when you need us the most. Our Level 1 Trauma Center is an integral part of UC San Diego Medical Center, our Hillcrest hospital, and is ready to help you and your loved ones 24/7.

We have the expertise to treat patients with the most high-risk injuries, including severe burns, gunshot wounds and serious car crash injuries. We also collaborate with specially trained surgeons, including neurologic, orthopedic, cardiothoracic, vascular and plastic surgeons, to help you on your road to recovery. It reflects our commitment to delivering the highest level of care to you and your family.

Level I Trauma Center

Trauma is the leading cause of death in the U.S., yet fewer than 8 percent of hospitals have a trauma center. UC San Diego Health — home of the region’s first Level 1 Trauma Center— has repeatedly proven to be one of the top-performing trauma centers in the U.S. and has among the lowest mortality rates for trauma patients. Our center has served as a model for trauma centers around the world, including centers at the 2014 World Soccer Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, both in Brazil.

We met strict requirements set forth by the American College of Surgeons to become a verified Level I Trauma Center. The distinction means we can provide the highest level of care for every aspect of an injury — from prevention through rehabilitation. We have the medical expertise, advanced technology and comprehensive resources to treat the full range of life-threatening conditions any time of the day or night.

We have served San Diego and Imperial counties since 1976 and are now part of the San Diego Trauma System, a collaborative, lifesaving countywide effort of six hospitals established in 1984. It’s recognized as one of the strongest, most effective trauma systems in the United States.

Trauma Care 24/7

Our trauma center operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and cares for over 3,200 patients every year. Whether critically injured people arrive by foot, ambulance or helicopter, we rapidly assess their condition and coordinate their care and recovery.

Common Conditions Treated

A traumatic injury is a severe physical injury — either accidental or intentional — that occurs suddenly and requires immediate medical interventions to save life and limb. We offer treatment to adults for a wide range of severe and life-threatening injuries and critical conditions resulting from:

  • Assaults and other violence
  • Drowning
  • Falls
  • Fires
  • Gunshots, stabbings and other violence
  • Car and motorcycle crashes
  • Natural disasters
  • Sports-related accidents

Emergency Pediatric Trauma Care

In certain circumstances, we also care for pediatric trauma patients. This happens when a large number of children in San Diego County are critically injured and Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego — the county’s only Pediatric Level 1 Trauma Center — is unable to take more patients, in a process known as trauma bypass.

Trauma Center Team

Trauma Care Experts

 Meet our trauma physicians.

The trauma team includes an attending physician, a postgraduate fellow, residents (likely from different specialties), nurses, a trauma technician, a laboratory technician and an ultrasound technician. Experts from all disciplines also come in to care for trauma patients, as needed. They include:

  • Anesthesiologists
  • Burn care specialists
  • Emergency doctors
  • Geriatricians
  • Heart surgeons
  • Neurosurgeons
  • Obstetricians
  • Orthopedic surgeons
  • Otolaryngologists (ENT specialists)
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgeons
  • Radiologists
  • Spine specialists
  • Vascular and endovascular surgeons

Specialized Facilities

Our state-of-the-art Trauma Center is equipped with leading-edge diagnostics, digital monitoring, precision imaging and life-support technologies. It includes:

  • Trauma bays, where hospital care begins with rapid assessment and initial treatment
  • Operating rooms
  • Resuscitation suites
  • Surgical intensive care unit (SICU)
  • Surgical progressive unit for patients recuperating from surgery after a traumatic injury
  • Modern X-ray system to deliver images straight into computers in seconds
  • Flat-screen monitors above each bay for surgeons to view outside images as patients are brought in and prepare in advance, as well as to direct the resuscitation of several patients simultaneously in the trauma bays

Coordinated, Comprehensive Care

When patients arrive by helicopter or ambulance, their care begins before they get to the hospital. There’s intense coordination between mobile intensive care nurses, doctors and pre-hospital paramedics.

Patients with a serious multisystem injury or requiring resuscitation or immediate surgery bypass the emergency room and are brought directly to our Trauma Center’s resuscitation suite or operating room for lifesaving surgery.

To ensure continuity of care, one of our trauma nurses remains with patients from admission until they’re stabilized, often through surgery and intensive care in the ICU. We monitor their progress every step of the way, coordinating care with other specialists to ensure they’re getting the right treatment from admission to discharge.

Leaders in Trauma Prevention, Training and Research

Education is an important part of being a trauma center — injuries from trauma that are the most life-threatening are also the most preventable. We partner with community organizations to educate the public on prevention. 

Another key component is our trauma training program for medical students, residents and interns. We also offer trauma surgery training for residents and postgraduate fellows.

In addition, our physician-scientists conduct research to improve patient care and survival rates. This includes:

Contact Us

  • Trauma Center: 619-543-6222
  • Clinical care appointments and referrals: 619-543-6886
  • Administrative offices (not for new patients or referrals): 619-543-7200
  • For Referring Physicians

Locations

UC San Diego – Hillcrest

Meet our Experts

Related Services

School of Medicine Links

Trauma Research Studies

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