Trauma Center Care Costs Warranted, Study Suggests

Janice Simmons, August 23, 2010

Trauma center treatment cost more when compared with non-trauma centers, but the overall benefits in terms of lives saved and quality of life-years gained, represents a more cost-effective way of treating patients with major trauma.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study found that the added cost of treatment at a trauma center versus a non-trauma center is $36,319 for every life-year gained or $790,931 per life saved. This is despite the fact that initial care in trauma centers is 71% higher than in non-trauma centers, say the researchers in The Journal of Trauma Injury, Infection and Critical Care.

Sources for the study include:

  • Data from 5,043 major trauma patients enrolled in the National Study on Costs and Outcomes of Trauma, a prospective study of severely injured adult patients cared for in 69 hospitals (18 trauma centers and 51 non-trauma centers) in 14 states
  • Claims data from CMS
  • UB92 hospital bills
  • Patient interviews

In addition to care received in the hospital, costs linked with:

  • Hospital transport,
  • Treatment at transferring hospital,
  • Rehospitalizations for acute care,
  • Inpatient rehabilitation,
  • Stays in long-term facilities,
  • Outpatient care,
  • Informal care from friends or family members

Lifetime costs were modeled using age-specific estimates of per capita personal health expenditures for the general U.S. population, along limited data on the impact of certain injures on lifetime healthcare costs.

While the value of a year of life is the subject of considerable debate, the researchers say that the costs per life-year saved at a trauma center are "well within an acceptable range of other cost-effective, life-saving interventions reported in the literature."

Janice Simmons Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at
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