Background: Regional trauma systems were proposed 2 decades ago to reduce injury mortality rates. Because of the difficulties in evaluating their effectiveness and the methodologic limitations of previously published studies, the relative benefits of establishing an organized system of trauma care remains controversial.
Methods: Data on trauma systems were obtained from a survey of state emergency medical service directors, review of state statutes and a previously published trauma system inventory. Injury mortality rates were obtained from national vital statistics data, whereas motor vehicle crash (MVC) mortality rates were obtained from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Mortality rates were compared between states with and without trauma systems.
Results: As of 1995, 22 states had regional trauma systems. States with trauma systems had a 9% lower crude injury mortality rate than those without. When MVC-related mortality was evaluated separately, there was a 17% reduction in deaths. After controlling for age, state speed laws, restraint laws, and population distribution, there remained a 9% reduction in MVC-related mortality rate in states with a trauma system.
Conclusion: These data demonstrate that a state trauma system is associated with a reduction in the risk of death caused by injury. The effect is most evident on analysis of MVC deaths.