Pitt to lead trauma network through $90 million federal defense contract
October 20, 2016 1:03 PM
When a person has a traumatic injury, emergency medical technicians typically rush to the scene to stop bleeding and reduce brain injury among other goals while transporting the patient to the hospital in an ambulance or helicopter.
But that process, which has saved many thousands of lives, still faces serious challenges, including the need for better medical tools to stop or reduce bleeding, brain hemorrhaging and swelling. There’s also a longstanding need to improve communication between trauma-center physicians and ambulance and air transport services.
That’s where the U.S. Department of Defense has stepped in to sign a $90 million contract over the next decade with University of Pittsburgh’s Schools of the Health Sciences and two other research centers to help improve trauma care for military personnel and civilians alike.
Research will begin with a $10.8 million project to create a nationwide network of trauma systems and centers — the Linking Investigations in Trauma and Emergency Services Network or LITES Network — with an initial focus on improving military trauma care.
The network will collect information from thousands of moderate to serious trauma cases nationwide about treatment processes, beginning with “pre-hospital care” — treatment before the patient reaches the hospital — and throughout the treatment process until recovery after discharge.
“Our immediate goal is to characterize what our network can do by obtaining intensive data from the pre-hospital and in-hospital settings, which is beyond what is normally obtained by trauma centers across the country,” said Jason L. Sperry, the UPMC trauma surgeon serving as the project’s principal investigator. “Our sense is that after approximately two years of accruing large amounts of data, we’ll be able to launch subsequent projects at the DOD’s request.”
The project represents “a very exciting time for trauma research,” he said, with the DOD contract confirming that the three participating universities stand at the forefront of such research.
Stephen R. Wisniewski, vice provost for data and information, the Epidemiology Data Center at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, will coordinate data collection for the project, with David Huang and Barbara Early in charge of the project’s clinical coordinating center to be established at Pitt’s Multidisciplinary Acute Care Research Organization.
Frank Guyette of Pitt’s department of emergency medicine will be responsible for organizing the pre-hospital phase of the studies. Trauma specialists at the University of Colorado and Oregon Health and Science University also are involved in the decade-long project.
DOD studies already are underway at all three universities to test new methods to stop bleeding by improving clotting or preventing clots from dissolving. Another major challenge in trauma victims is to prevent brain swelling and hemorrhaging. Projects eventually could include randomized clinical trials to determine which methods work best to prevent the death of trauma victims.
“Hundreds or more U.S. service member lives could likely be saved in future wars if trauma care were optimal,” according to a June 17 report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. “Those potential gains soar into the tens of thousands of lives saved if past and future improvements in military trauma care could be systematically translated into the civilian sector.”
That report, Dr. Sperry said, set “a bold goal to achieve zero preventable deaths after injury and minimal trauma-related disability.”
Martin A. Schreiber, the project’s principal investigator at Oregon Health and Science University, said Pitt was chosen to lead the project because its researchers represent “the top leaders in trauma research in the nation.”
“I’m hoping it will happen that we find interventions — things we can do for patients after they are injured — to improve survival with better outcomes after trauma, including fewer complications and shorter hospital stays,” Dr. Schreiber said.
David Templeton: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1578.
Correction (made Oct. 20, 2016, at 1:02 p.m.):A previous version of the story inaccurately reported the leadership of the project’s clinical coordinating center and was not clear that Jason L. Sperry is serving as the entire project’s principal investigator.
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