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Quick emergency care often beyond reach

Millions of Americans, mainly those living in rural areas, could not get to the most sophisticated trauma centers within an hour of being seriously injured, a study said.
/ Source: Reuters

Millions of Americans, mainly those living in rural areas, could not get to the most sophisticated trauma centers within an hour of being seriously injured, a study said Tuesday.

As of January 2005 nearly 70 percent of the population could get to a level I or level II trauma center by ground or air ambulance within 45 minutes of help being summoned, said the report published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Within the first hour of a call being made more than 84 percent could be at one of those 1,445 centers in the United States, added the study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

But that means “46.7 million Americans had no access to a level I or level II trauma center within an hour,” mainly those residing in rural areas, it said. The current U.S. population is about 296.2 million.

The first hour after severe injury is sometimes called the "golden hour" for optimal treatment, though there is no precise scientific data backing up that concept, the study said.

The finding points out a need to locate trauma centers and medical helicopter bases with geographic needs in mind and to make sure such facilities are shared across state lines, it said.

Level I and II trauma centers in the United States offer complete care for the most critically injured patients, with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and certain other specialists on hand, the study said.