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When people in Wisconsin are severely injured, they have a better chance of surviving thanks to our adult Level I Trauma Center at Froedtert Hospital. It is the only adult Level I Trauma Center in eastern Wisconsin and one of two in the state. Severely injured patients from as far away as Pierce, Rusk and Oneida counties in Wisconsin are brought to the Trauma Center for life-saving care.

Our Level I Trauma Center collaborates with the Froedtert & MCW health network’s Level III trauma centers at Froedtert Menomonee Falls Hospital and Froedtert West Bend Hospital to provide the best possible level of care for people with traumatic injuries.

What Is Trauma?

Trauma is any serious injury caused by an external force, such as a motor vehicle crash, falls, violence, sports- or recreational-related injuries and job-related injuries. Care must be tailored to each individual depending on the type, extent and severity of the injury. There are two main types of traumatic injuries (physical injuries that cause serious damage to the body).

  • Blunt force trauma happens when an object or force strikes the body. It can cause concussions, deep cuts, broken bones and crush injuries.
  • Penetrating trauma happens when an object pierces the skin or body and usually creates an open wound.

Psychological trauma involves an emotional or psychological injury, typically resulting from an extremely stressful or life-threatening situation. People who have had traumatic injuries can experience this type of trauma, and treatment is needed for healing and the best possible quality of life after injury.

What Does “Level I” Mean?

Our Trauma Center is classified as “Level I,” which means it provides the highest level of specialty expertise and meets strict national standards. Specialized teams, facilities and equipment are available around the clock, 365 days a year, to treat life-threatening injuries.

A trauma center is not the same as a hospital emergency department; emergency services are a critical component of a comprehensive trauma program. A Level I facility must have the capability of providing total care for every aspect of injury — from injury prevention to rehabilitation — for any part of the body.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine*, you receive treatment at a Level I Trauma Center, there is a 25% reduction in mortality compared with people who are not treated at a trauma center. Yet, about 45 million people in the U.S. lack access to a Level I Trauma Center within an hour of injury, a critical window. Faster transportation time to a trauma center saves lives. Source: N Engl J Med 2006;354:366-78.

Comparing Trauma Center Levels

We have an adult Level I Trauma Center at Froedtert Hospital. Level I trauma centers in most states, including Wisconsin, are designated by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) for three-year periods. A Level I Trauma Center is required to: 

  • Have prompt availability of specialists in trauma surgery, orthopaedic surgery, neurosurgery, surgical critical care, rehabilitation medicine and emergency medicine to adequately respond to and care for the various forms of trauma. In addition, specialists in anesthesiology, radiology, plastic surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery and internal medicine also need to be readily available.
  • Have an operating room dedicated solely to trauma patients.
  • Provide injury prevention programs in the community.
  • Provide professional education for physicians, nurses, emergency medical services personnel and physician liaisons.
  • Conduct resident training in general surgery, orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery.
  • Conduct research — a commitment to research is primarily what separates Level I trauma centers from Level II trauma centers. At Froedtert & MCW health network, a strong relationship between Medical College of Wisconsin researchers and care providers keeps the Trauma Center on the leading edge of the latest advances in trauma care.

A Level II Trauma Center initiates definitive care for all injured patients. Elements of Level II Trauma Centers include:

  • 24-hour immediate coverage by general surgeons, as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
  • Tertiary 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.
  • Incorporates a comprehensive quality assessment program.

We have Level III Trauma Centers at Froedtert Menomonee Falls Hospital and Froedtert West Bend Hospital. Both can transfer you to Froedtert Hospital should you need care at a Level I Trauma Center.

A Level III Trauma Center demonstrates an ability to provide prompt assessment, resuscitation, surgery, intensive care and stabilization of injured patients and emergency operations. Elements of Level III Trauma Centers include:

  • 24-hour immediate coverage by emergency medicine physicians and the prompt availability of general surgeons and anesthesiologists.
  • Incorporates a comprehensive quality assessment program.
  • Has developed transfer agreements for patients requiring more comprehensive care at a Level I or Level II Trauma Center.
  • Provides back-up care for rural and community hospitals.
  • Offers continued education of the nursing and allied health personnel or the trauma team.
  • Involved with prevention efforts and must have an active outreach program for its referring communities.

A Level IV Trauma Center demonstrates an ability to provide advanced trauma life support (ATLS) before transfer of patients to a higher level trauma center. It provides evaluation, stabilization, and diagnostic capabilities for injured patients. Elements of Level IV Trauma Centers include:

  • Basic emergency department facilities to implement ATLS protocols and 24-hour laboratory coverage. Available trauma nurse(s) and physicians available upon patient arrival.
  • May provide surgery and critical-care services if available.
  • Has developed transfer agreements for patients requiring more comprehensive care at a Level I or Level II Trauma Center.
  • Incorporates a comprehensive quality assessment program.
  • Involved with prevention efforts and must have an active outreach program for its referring communities.

A Level V Trauma Center provides initial evaluation, stabilization and diagnostic capabilities and prepares patients for transfer to higher levels of care. Elements of Level V Trauma Centers include:

  • Basic emergency department facilities to implement ATLS protocols.
  • Available trauma nurse(s) and physicians available upon patient arrival.
  • After-hours activation protocols if facility is not open 24-hours a day.
  • May provide surgery and critical-care services if available.
  • Has developed transfer agreements for patients requiring more comprehensive care at a Level I through III Trauma Centers.

What to Expect

Arrival

Upon arrival, all patients are met by the trauma team, which is staffed and ready at all times. The team approach to the care of trauma patients is critical; each team member has a specific role to perform under the direction of the trauma team leader.

Assessment

We quickly assess patients for major injuries. If injuries affect more than one organ system, a patient is admitted to the trauma service. If injuries are to a single system, the appropriate program, such as neurosciences, vascular surgery or cardiac surgery, assumes care of the patient.

Rehabilitation

We evaluate patients with brain, spinal cord, orthopaedic or multiple trauma injuries in the intensive care unit, sometimes within 24 hours of their injury. This early contact provides an opportunity for patient and family education about the patient's future rehabilitation needs.

Trauma Center Statistics

In 2020, 4,263 severely injured patients were seen in the Trauma Center. The Froedtert & MCW health network is proud to support this vital community resource to improve the health of the populations we serve.

  • Falls remained the greatest cause of traumatic injury among patients at the trauma center, accounting for 1,379 cases — closely followed by motor vehicle and motorcycle crashes (1,239).
  • More than 70% of trauma patients were discharged home.

Read the Trauma Center Annual Report

The Trauma Team

All staff who need to care for patients will be at the patients side in their most critical moment — from the trauma surgeon who performs emergency surgery, to the neurosurgeon who treats a head injury or the chaplain who waits with family members.

Choose Safe

Learn how to prevent injury with our full range of programs and resources!

Brian Murphy Credits Remaining Calm and Trauma Team

"I remember it well." The retired police lieutenant recounts the day of his response to an active shooter and describes how the life he leads now would be dramatically different if not for the trained trauma team staff at the Froedtert Hospital adult Level I Trauma Center who treated him.

Watch Brian Murphy's Story

What We Do

Recovery

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Froedtert Hospital one of few in nation to screen trauma patients for PTSD. Anyone exposed to an extreme traumatic event that poses a threat of death or serious injury to him or herself or others is at risk for PTSD. Watch for PTSD symptoms and seek treatment if they persist for more than a month.

Community

Violence Interruption Program

The Froedtert & MCW Hospital-Based Violence Interruption Program aims to save lives by taking steps to interrupt the cycle of violence. Combining public health, Trauma Center, Emergency Department and community efforts in a coordinated partnership can lead to safer, healthier communities. 

Education

Trauma Prevention Programs

Prevention is the best way to reduce traumatic injuries and save lives. We offer many prevention programs focused on keeping you out of our Trauma Center, including safe driving programs, fall prevention tips and a trauma risk assessment.  

Regional System of Care

The Trauma Center is the hub of a complete system of care serving the entire region. Before a patient arrives at the Trauma Center, many other professionals are involved, including:

  • Skilled 911 dispatchers
  • Firefighters and police officers, who are often the first to respond at the scene of an injury
  • Paramedics, who perform life-saving care and transport patients to the Trauma Center
  • Flight For Life, staffed with flight nurses and flight paramedics or physicians for rapid transport of patients to the Trauma Center from an injury scene or transfer from another hospital.

Learn More About Our Regional Involvement

Trauma Center Activations

First responders from Emergency Medical Services (EMS) evaluate injured patients at the site of the trauma. EMS Communications then initiates one of three “activations” depending on the condition of the patient and the mechanism of injury:

Trauma Alert

When a person has sustained a traumatic injury and is showing poor vital signs, EMS Communications pages a “Trauma Alert.” Key indications include low blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, signs of coma, compromised breathing and any gunshot wound to the neck, chest or abdomen. A Trauma Alert activates the full trauma team, including trauma surgeons, emergency medicine physicians and nurses, OR and Surgery ICU staff and Versiti staff.

Trauma Call

When a person has suffered a serious injury but his or her vital signs are normal, EMS Communications pages a “Trauma Call.” This page activates a subset of the trauma team, including surgeons and emergency medicine physicians and nurses.

ED Alert

Individuals involved in a crash or fall may not appear to be significantly harmed, but they still have the potential for serious injury. In these cases, EMS Communications pages an "ED All" to notify Emergency Department physicians and nurses that a patient who may need significant attention will arrive soon. All potentially injured patients who are pregnant or over the age of 65 trigger an ED Alert.

Flight For Life Emergency Helicopter

Flight For Life maintains a helipad and hangar facility atop Froedtert Hospital. These facilities allow for refueling, training and other operations at Froedtert, the primary destination for most Flight For Life trauma patients.

Trauma Professional Education Programs

As an adult Level I Trauma Center, we are responsible for teaching the latest trauma procedures and standards to not only our own staff, but to the many EMTs and first responders out in the field.

Stop the Bleed" Training

Stop the Bleed logoOur Trauma Center offers "Stop the Bleed" information and training. Stop the Bleed training can help you save a life if you're a bystander to trauma. The goal is teach you how to stop uncontrolled bleeding with basic hemorrhage control techniques, such as pressure, packing or a tourniquet.