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BACKGROUND: Research on the impact of pediatric trauma centers (PTCs) on mortality has been conflicting, most likely owing to differing methodologies. Using a population-based approach, we assessed whether American College of Surgeons (ACS)-verified trauma centers are associated with reduced overall state pediatric injury mortality rates.

METHODS: A population-based study of state pediatric injury mortality rates (per 100,000 children <=18 years) using data for 2008 from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. The availability of verified PTCs (vPTCs) and ACS-verified adult trauma centers in each state was determined and compared with mortality rates using regression, adjusting for injury mortality covariates. Correlation of mortality with type of trauma centers available was determined. The mortality versus number of PTCs per pediatric population was also examined.

RESULTS: vPTCs were present in 36% of states, including 24% of states with Level I vPTCs. The mean (SD) pediatric injury mortality for the 32 states without a vPTC was 20.6 (6.6) per 100,000 children 18 years or younger. Presence and higher verification level of vPTC within a state correlated with decreasing pediatric injury mortality (punadjusted = 0.005; padjusted = 0.004). Mortality was 37% lower among states with only Level I vPTCs (12.9 [2.2]). Mortality was inversely correlated with the number of Level I vPTCs (punadjusted = 0.006; padjusted = 0.06) and lowest for states with two Level I vPTCs (11.8 [1.7]). Higher ratios of Level I vPTCs per population correlated with lower mortality rates ([beta] = -3.53, p = 0.003).

CONCLUSION: The findings highlight a correlation between state pediatric injury mortality rates and presence of ACS-verified Level I PTCs.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Prognostic study, level IV.

(C) 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.