Finding treatment for trauma Featured

7:00pm EDT December 31, 2006

At any time, CEOs and corporate employees may find themselves in need of a trauma center. On an annual basis, the three trauma centers in Orange County treat between 4,000 to 5,000 patients, mostly as a result of blunt traumas such as car accidents or falls.

The difference between life and death following a trauma is time. Survival often rests on how quickly the patient can be seen by a physician and receives the necessary specialized help. Enter the role of the trauma center, which differs greatly from the standard emergency room.

“You can’t go to just any hospital following an accident,” says Frank Nastanski, M.D., associate director of trauma at Western Medical Center Santa Ana. “Its general surgeon might need to be summoned from home, and an hour may be too long to wait for a patient with a bleeding spleen.”

“We are part of a community safety net, and we save lives,” says Humberto Sauri, M.D., medical director of trauma at Western Medical Center Santa Ana.

Smart Business spoke with Nastanski and Sauri about why access to a trauma center is vital and how it saves lives.

What makes a trauma center different from a standard emergency room?
Trauma centers have operating rooms that are set-up for immediate use. They are staffed with operating room teams, including an anesthesiologist and a trauma surgeon who are on duty 24 hours a day seven days a week. We also have specialists on call who can handle any type of emergency situation. These include plastic surgeons, neurosurgeons, replant specialists, pediatricians, urologists and pulmonary cardiologists. Our nursing staff is also certified for trauma, and we have the equipment and the necessary supplies available to treat for trauma, such as blood for transfusions.

In addition to trauma certification, as the professional staff treats more patients, they gain experience and the outcomes are better. Trauma centers have that experience because they are fully dedicated to trauma; they don’t dabble in it. In addition, they are required to take extra educational units every year in trauma treatment.

How are trauma centers certified?
Orange County was one of the first places in the country to have an organized trauma system. The accrediting body, the American College of Surgeons, which conducts an annual two-day site review, has certified Western Medical Center in Santa Ana as a Level II trauma center.

How can CEOs benefit from the trauma center?
The presence of a trauma center is great security for employees. Because we are centrally located in Santa Ana, we rarely need to airlift anyone to the trauma center, which saves time, money and lives.

Most paramedics treat patients and triage them at the scene, but they need to have somewhere to take them. We have a better than accepted survival rate, and prospective employees will take the presence of a trauma center into consideration when deciding to relocate to Orange County.

Recently, we treated a construction worker who had fallen 40 feet while working on a new supermarket. We were able to save his life. If that same accident had happened somewhere else in the country where the resources of a trauma center were not available, the outcome might not have been as positive. Workers who are injured on the job are also brought into the trauma center, and that contributes to great piece of mind for CEOs.

Even though trauma centers see critically injured people, we are able to save lives because we are trained and staffed to handle any type of injury. You never know when it could be you, a family member or an employee that requires the services of a trauma center.

FRANK NASTANSKI, M.D., is associate medical director of trauma at Western Medical Center Santa Ana.

HUMBERTO SAURI, M.D., is medical director of trauma at Western Medical Center Santa Ana. For more information visit