It was just five short years ago the first Level I trauma center west of I-17 opened at Abrazo West Campus. The center exceeded volume projections in only six months, and the service continues to expand to meet the needs of the growing West Valley.
Thousands of critically injured patients have been treated each year since the trauma center earned state Level I certification in July 2014. Abrazo West’s trauma program receives patients from a wide geographic area, serving southwestern Arizona communities all the way to the California state line.
“When the trauma center opened, it was projected that it would serve about 1,200 trauma patients a year. We saw 1,500 trauma patients in the first six months,” said Tiffiny Strever, RN, trauma program manager at Abrazo West. “It really showed there was a need for these services in the region.”
The Abrazo West trauma center opened after a hospital expansion project added trauma bays, trauma surgical suites and new private rooms to the hospital. Clinical staff and physicians are trained in trauma medicine, and practice in areas including orthopedic and spine surgery, neurosurgery, cardiovascular surgery, hand surgery, facial and plastic surgery, and other specialties.
“Launching a Level I trauma center takes much planning, investment and persistence. Abrazo West saw a need and fulfilled a commitment to provide a higher level of care,” noted Chief Executive Officer Christina Oh. “Opening the trauma program was a watershed moment for this hospital to truly become a medical center that provides value for the community in so many ways.”
Abrazo West Campus is now a teaching hospital, with doctors from Abrazo’s general surgery and internal medicine residency programs completing rotations through the trauma center, working alongside emergency and trauma care physicians.
Abrazo West now receives around 2,500 trauma patients a year. With its proximity to several busy highways, one might assume motor vehicle crash injuries make up a large number of patients. While it’s certainly true that many patients are the result of car crashes, Strever noted a surprising stat.
“There are three primary types of injuries that we see: motor vehicle crashes, falls and interpersonal violence. Of those, many of our traumas are now fall injuries,” she said. That’s consistent with research that shows falls are the leading cause of injury deaths, unintentional injuries and hospital admissions for trauma for older adults in the U.S.
“It sounds simple but people don’t realize how serious falls can be. Falls happen to people of all ages, but they are now a leading cause of death due to injury for those over age 65, and account for nearly half of all nursing home admissions. Falls are the major cause of hip fractures in older adults, and responsible for about half of all fatal head injuries,” explained Strever.
Facts about falls
• One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
• Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
• Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
• Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
• More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling,8 usually by falling sideways.
• Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
• In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.
(Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)