Context: Previous studies have reported that the number and distribution of trauma centers are uneven across states, suggesting large differences in access to trauma center care.
Objective: To estimate the proportion of US residents having access to trauma centers within 45 and 60 minutes.
Design and setting: Cross-sectional study using data from 2 national databases as part of the Trauma Resource Allocation Model for Ambulances and Hospitals (TRAMAH) project. Trauma centers, base helipads, and block group population were counted for all 50 states and the District of Columbia as of January 2005.
Main outcome measures: Percentages of national, regional, and state populations having access to all 703 level I, II, and III trauma centers in the United States by either ground ambulance or helicopter within 45 and 60 minutes.
Results: An estimated 69.2% and 84.1% of all US residents had access to a level I or II trauma center within 45 and 60 minutes, respectively. The 46.7 million Americans who had no access within an hour lived mostly in rural areas, whereas the 42.8 million Americans who had access to 20 or more level I or II trauma centers within an hour lived mostly in urban areas. Within 45 and 60 minutes, respectively, 26.7% and 27.7% of US residents had access to level I or II trauma centers by helicopter only and 1.9% and 3.1% of US residents had access to level I or II centers only from trauma centers or base helipads outside their home states.
Conclusion: Selecting trauma centers based on geographic need, appropriately locating medical helicopter bases, and establishing formal agreements for sharing trauma care resources across states should be considered to improve access to trauma care in the United States.