updated 1/25/2006 5:32:06 PM ET 2006-01-25T22:32:06

A national study confirmed that trauma centers — hospitals specially equipped to deal with gunshot wounds, auto accidents and other serious injuries — save lives.

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Patients treated at trauma centers are more likely to survive the emergency and more likely to be alive a year later, too, the study found.

Trauma centers have specialized teams of doctors and the best equipment for emergencies. But they are expensive to operate, and there are sometimes debates over whether it is better to take accident victims to the closest hospital or a trauma center farther away.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined how patients fared at 69 hospitals — including 18 with a Level 1 trauma center, the most comprehensive type — in 14 states between July 2001 and November 2002.

After adjusting for such differences as severity of age and quality of care among the 5,000 or so patients analyzed, they found the in-hospital death rate was 7.6 percent at trauma centers versus 9.5 percent at regular hospitals.

After a year, the death rate among trauma center patients was 10 percent, compared with 14 percent for the others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped fund the study, published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers noted that the study focused on trauma centers in the city and suburbs and that the findings may not be the same for rural trauma centers.

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