UNC Health Talk

N.C. Children’s Hospital Triangle’s first American College of Surgeons-verified Level I pediatric trauma center

Media contact: Danielle M. Bates, 919.843.9714 – office, 949.842.0680 – mobile,

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

UNC Hospitals’ North Carolina Children’s Hospital has been verified by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) as a Level I pediatric trauma center, the highest verification offered by the ACS Committee on Trauma. It is the first hospital in the Triangle, and one of only two in the entire state, to receive ACS recognition for having the highest level of expertise in treating critically injured children. It joins the ranks of 40 other ACS-verified level I pediatric trauma centers across the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, trauma from unintentional injury is the leading cause of death among children under 18, accounting for more than 9,000 deaths each year. That’s about 25 child deaths a day, or one child death every hour. Almost 9 million children are treated for injuries in hospital emergency departments (EDs) each year, and more than 225,000 children are hospitalized annually as a result of such injuries.

“When a child experiences a traumatic injury, minutes can be the difference between life and death,” said Kimberly Erickson, MD, medical director of UNC’s pediatric trauma program and assistant professor of surgery and pediatrics. “At UNC, care waits for the injured child 24/7 rather than the child having to wait for care. The pediatric trauma team can assess, stabilize, and treat life-threatening issues in the shortest time possible to give that child the best chance of survival and recovery.”

Quick Facts about Pediatric Trauma at N.C. Children’s Hospital

  • UNC sees over 2,000 children with trauma-related injuries in the emergency department annually.
  • UNC admitted about 250 pediatric trauma patients in 2012; 64 percent were transferred to UNC from Triangle-area facilities and others across the state for a higher level of care.
  • Though second to falls among the leading causes of pediatric trauma cases at UNC, transportation-related injuries (motor vehicle crashes, pedestrians struck, bicycle vs. car, ATV accidents) are commonly seen and account for the most severely injured patients at N.C. Children’s Hospital.

UNC initiated preparation for the ACS site visit more than 18 months before the two-day verification visit last October, which included a detailed review of pediatric trauma cases and thorough examination of the overall program, from pre-care through rehabilitation.

“The criteria for obtaining Level I trauma verification are amazingly stringent,” said trauma program manager, Jennifer Haynes, who led the preparation effort. “They are designed to ensure a center has both the capability and dedication to provide the absolute highest level of care from the minute a patient hits the door to the day of discharge.”

Components of UNC’s pediatric trauma program include:

  • Five fellowship-trained pediatric surgeons
  • Pediatric surgical specialists in anesthesia, neurosurgery, otolaryngology/ENT, orthopaedics, urology, plastic surgery, and oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • 20-bed pediatric intensive care unit staffed by board-certified pediatric intensivists
  • Pediatric rehabilitation and supportive care services, including physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, rehabilitation, psychology as well as a children’s supportive care team, recreational therapy, and a hospital school
  • Leadership of Orange County Safe Kids program
  • Representation on regional and state trauma advisory councils
  • Trauma outreach education at local and state levels for hospitals and EMS providers
  • Research programs and performance improvement efforts to ensure that each patient experience leads to the best possible outcome

Of note, the ACS report included an assessment categorizing the program’s care of patients with severe traumatic brain injury as “exceptional.”

“Abundant research has shown that injured children treated in pediatric trauma centers have lower mortality rates and shorter hospital stays than those cared for in adult trauma centers,” said Wesley Burks, MD, chief physician of N.C. Children’s Hospital.

“We’ve offered child-specific trauma care for a number of years. Becoming a Level I pediatric trauma center is taking our commitment to providing the best care one step further, and we are proud to be one of only five programs in the entire Southeast to earn this distinction.”

North Carolina Children’s Hospital protects the health and well-being of North Carolina’s 2.3 million children by aligning premier health care practitioners, world-class medical education, and innovative, interdisciplinary research to provide the highest-quality, family-centered care, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. As a major referral center for children with complex and chronic conditions, N.C. Children’s Hospital works hand-in-hand with community hospitals and pediatricians across the state, providing specialty care to more than 70,000 children from all 100 counties each year.

N.C. Children’s Hospital offers complete pediatric inpatient and outpatient care in its 150-bed state-of-the-art facility at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill and at more than 25 satellite outpatient clinics throughout North Carolina. The Children’s Hospital’s world-class physicians, nurses and other clinical staff represent all pediatric subspecialties and are capable of treating children with virtually any disease or disorder. For more information, please visit www.ncchildrenshospital.org.