Winter 2014

When Minutes Count

Tufts' Foster Hospital receives national designation as level 1 trauma center

The Boston Marathon bombings demonstrated the importance of medical trauma centers in a crisis. Despite sustaining horrific injuries, more than 250 victims survived the blasts because of the care they received at the city’s six trauma hospitals.

Now, veterinary medicine has taken a page from human medicine to offer the same level of emergency care to animals that suffer life-threatening injuries.

The Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Tufts recently became the first veterinary hospital in New England—and one of only nine nationwide—to be designated a level 1 veterinary trauma center, meaning it offers sophisticated and comprehensive services for pets with serious injuries. The American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care created the trauma designation to help define standards of care that potentially will improve survival rates for the most severely injured animals.

Armelle de Laforcade, V97, who heads the emergency service at the Foster Hospital, says cats and dogs often experience traumatic injuries, such as fractures, wounds caused by other animals and internal bleeding after being hit by a car. Poor outcomes are common.

Studies of humans with severe injuries show that if these patients are treated at a level 1 trauma center, they generally experience higher rates of survival, even if such care is not provided at the closest hospital, says de Laforcade. Similarly, she notes, “dogs and cats with severe or complicated injuries benefit from an organized system of specialty-level care that can be delivered in a short period of time.”

To qualify as a trauma center, a veterinary ER must provide 24/7 comprehensive care and offer ready access to board-certified specialists in emergency and critical care, surgery and radiology.

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