Cost-effectiveness was estimated as the ratio of the difference in costs, treatment at a trauma center vs. non-trauma center, divided by the difference in life years gained, plus lives saved, the researchers say.
Also, while trauma center care was cost-effective for all patients, it was particularly valuable for individuals with severe injuries and for patients younger than 55 years. The costs per life-year gained were higher for patients with less severe injuries.
"Each year in the United States, more than two million people are hospitalized for treatment of a traumatic injury. Because injuries often happen in children and young adults, the years of potential life lost are significant," says Richard Hunt, MD, director of the Division of Injury Response in the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We know that getting the most critically injured patients the right care, at the right place, at the right time can help save lives," he says.
Overall, the results underscore the importance of designing trauma systems that assures that patients are taken to the level of care appropriate to their needs, the researchers concluded. Taking the less severely injured to a lower level of trauma care will yield "lower costs and increased efficiency in the system."