Can a pediatric trauma center improve the response to a mass casualty incident?

Erik R. Barthel, James R. Pierce, Catherine J. Goodhue, Rita V. Burke, Henri R. Ford, Jeffrey S. Upperman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Recent events including the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York; Hurricane Katrina; the 2010 Haitian and Chilean earthquakes; and the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Japan have reminded disaster planners and responders of the tremendous scale of mass casualty disasters and their resulting human devastation. Although adult disaster medicine is a well-developed field with roots in wartime medicine, we are increasingly recognizing that children may comprise up to 50% of disaster victims, and response mechanisms are often designed without adequate preparation for the number of pediatric victims that can result. In this short educational review, we explore the differences between the pediatric and adult disaster and trauma populations, the requirements for designation of a site as a pediatric trauma center (PTC), and the magnitude of the problem of pediatric disaster patients as described in the literature, specifically as it pertains to the availability and use of designated PTCs as opposed to trauma centers in general. We also review our own experience in planning and simulating pediatric mass casualty events and suggest strategies for preparedness when there is no PTC available. We aim to demonstrate from this brief survey that the availability of a designated PTC in the setting of a mass casualty disaster event is likely to significantly improve the outcome for the pediatric demographic of the affected population. We conclude that the relative scarcity of disaster data specific to children limits epidemiologic study of the pediatric disaster population and offer suggestions for strategies for future study of our hypothesis. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Systematic review, level III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)885-889
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Pediatric disaster preparedness
  • disaster medicine
  • pediatric trauma center

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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