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State network to speed up treatment of head trauma

By Paul Huggins ∑ 340-2395

Alabamians who suffer severe head injuries will benefit from the new Statewide Trauma System.

Thatís what state Sen. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, told Decatur General Hospital officials Monday.

The system, recently enacted as state law, will affect the 10 percent of trauma cases where getting treatment within the first hour can make the difference in life or death as well as preserving quality of life, he said.

The key is for medical personnel at the trauma scene to be able to know where to send the injured person immediately, said Griffith, a longtime Huntsville physician who sponsored the bill in the Legislature.

This requires a computer network, updated daily, inventorying which hospitals have operating rooms, surgeons, even helicopters available at a given time, he said.

Alabama has the fourth highest highway trauma rate in the nation.

Almost 80 percent of trauma cases occur in highway accidents. Trauma victims in rural areas have twice the death rate as those in urban areas, Griffith said.

The state has three Level I trauma centers dealing with the most severe head injuries: Huntsville, Birmingham and Mobile. Decatur General is a Level II center.

Dr. Larry Sullivan, Decatur General vice president and chief medical officer, said the hospital already provides this information on a regional basis so it wonít be difficult to support the new statewide system.

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