Access to pediatric trauma care in the United States

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Jun;163(6):512-8. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.65.


Objectives: To catalog trauma center resources and estimate access to age-specific trauma care for children younger than 15 years in the United States.

Design: Cross-sectional study collating information from national, state, and local trauma systems authorities to create a catalog of verified pediatric trauma centers (PTCs) and self-designated "candidate" trauma centers. Access-to-care calculations were estimated using all US block groups and prior validated methods.

Setting: United States.

Patients: Children in the US younger than 15 years.

Main outcome measures: The PTC statuses of hospitals in the United States. Percentages of pediatric populations (by state and population density) having access (by ground or air) within 60 minutes to a PTC.

Results: A total of 170 verified PTCs were identified in 41 states (including the District of Columbia). An estimated 71.5% of pediatric patients were within 60 minutes of a verified PTC by air or ground transport, 43% if ground transportation only was considered. An estimated 17.4 million children did not have access to a PTC within 60 minutes. Access ranged from 22.9% of the population in the most rural areas of the United States to 93.5% in the most urban. The addition of 24 candidate centers increased coverage to 77.4% of the pediatric population being within 60 minutes of a PTC.

Conclusions: Current pediatric trauma resources vary greatly by state and population density, with many children, particularly in rural areas, underserved. A thorough standardized catalog of verified PTCs is necessary to accurately assess pediatric trauma needs now and to optimize future trauma system planning for children.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Air Ambulances
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Equipment and Supplies
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / supply & distribution*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Population Density
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Trauma Centers / supply & distribution*
  • United States