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Trauma Center Levels - Explained

Posted September 13, 2019 by Richard L George, MD, Surgical Critical Care


While many hospitals have emergency departments, some hospitals are equipped to treat the most severely injured patients. Such hospitals are verified by the American College of Surgeons as Trauma Centers with highly trained doctors who specialize in treating traumatic injuries. These trauma centers are staffed 24/7 and are always prepared to treat patients with any injury.

Trauma Centers across the United States go through a verification process to receive their designation level based on the resources they have available and the number of patients they admit yearly. While the trauma designations often vary state-by-state, these are the five levels of Trauma Centers in the United States, currently in Ohio we do not have Level IV or V Trauma Centers:

  • Level I: A Level I Trauma Center provides the highest level of surgical care for trauma patients. These centers provide total care, from prevention through rehabilitation. They offer a graduate medical education program for medical residents and fellows; additionally, they share results of scholarly activity (such as research and quality improvement). Elements of a Level I Trauma Center include:
    • 24-hour in-house coverage by general surgeons and availability of care in specialties like orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine, plastic surgery and pediatric and critical care.
    • Referral resource for communities in nearby regions.
    • Leadership in prevention and public education in nearby communities.
    • Continuous education of trauma team members.
    • Program for substance abuse screening and intervention.
    • Organized teaching and research efforts to direct new innovations in trauma care.
    • Meets minimum requirement for annual volume of severely injured patients.
    • Has a comprehensive quality assessment program.


  • Level II: A Level II Trauma Center is similar to a Level I but doesn’t necessarily offer teaching or research and some major traumas may be referred to a Level I center. It should be able to initiate definitive care for all injured patients. Elements of a Level II Trauma Center include:
    • 24-hour in-house coverage by general surgeons and availability of care in specialties like orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
    • Needs such as cardiac surgery, hemodialysis and microvascular surgery may be referred to a Level I Trauma Center.
    • Provides trauma prevention and continuing education programs for staff.
    • Has a comprehensive quality assessment program.


  • Level III: A Level III Trauma Center is smaller but can provide prompt care to injured patients. They should demonstrate an ability to provide prompt assessment, resuscitation, surgery, intensive care, and stabilization of injured patients. Elements of a Level III Trauma Center include:
    • 24-hour immediate coverage by emergency medicine physicians and prompt availability of general surgeons and anesthesiologists.
    • A transfer agreement with a Level I or II Trauma Center for patients who require more comprehensive care.
    • Backup care for rural and community hospitals.
    • Continuous education of nurses, health professionals and trauma team.
    • A comprehensive quality assessment program. 

Trauma Care at Summa Health

Summa Health System – Akron Campus is a Level I Trauma Center and was the first hospital in Akron to receive the Level I designation.

We know a trip to an Emergency Department can be stressful, which is why we are dedicated to serving your needs and taking care of your health problems with the 24/7, high-quality,  supportive care, and assistance you need in an emergency situation.

Our state-of-the-art Trauma Bays, located in the Emergency Department, are where care starts for traumatically injured patients by our highly trained Critical Care Trauma Surgeons. Additionally, we have an Operating Room that is staffed 24/7 and prepared to provide surgical treatment to any patient. Once care is completed in the Emergency Department or Operating Room our Critical Care Nurses are trained to care for any patient with trauma and/or surgical needs.

Furthermore, we are one of two Level I Trauma Centers in Northeast Ohio, and the only one in Akron, capable of receiving patients transported via WAAS equipped helicopters during inclement weather due to our recently upgraded helipad. 

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If your situation is an emergency, call 911.