Trauma Deserts

Proximity of a trauma center to gunshot wound (GSW) incidents have a positive effect on patient survival rates.

Traumatic injury is a leading cause of death, and Chicago faces unique trauma challenges with a high prevalence of GSWs. This study examined if patients suffering GSWs farther from a trauma center experienced longer transport times and higher mortality.

Data from the Illinois State Trauma Registry (1999-2009) was used. Address data for the Chicago-area GSWs were geocoded to identify the nearest trauma center. The final sample included 11,744 GSW patients in the Chicago area.

Key Findings:

  • Among GSW patients in the data set, most were male, younger than 40, non-White, and patients of assault.
  • The study reveals that 4,782 patients, or 38 percent of patients, were shot more than five miles from a trauma center.
  • Mean transport time was higher for patients shot more than 5 miles away from a trauma center (16.6 minutes versus 10.3 minutes).
  • Unadjusted mortality was also higher for these patients (8.7% versus 7%).

Most of Chicago’s gun violence occurs on its south and west sides, yet these areas have little to no trauma centers directly located within them, creating trauma deserts. This study demonstrates that the proximity of a trauma center to an incident has a positive effect on GSW patient’s survival. These findings can inform conversations about trauma care, specifically in Chicago.