Patient Care

Level I Adult and Pediatric Trauma Care

Located in downtown Minneapolis, Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) is a public teaching and research hospital committed to providing complex trauma care for adults and children.

Verified but the American College of Surgeons as Minnesota’s first Level I Trauma Center in 1989, HCMC houses Minnesota’s largest emergency department and busiest trauma center. Care is provided for over 3, 000 trauma patients each year, with more than one-third of the patients from the upper Midwest.

As a Level I Trauma Center, HCMC’s must ensure that operating rooms, surgeons, imaging, labs, and all the services needed to care for seriously ill or injured patients are available 24/7.

What is a Level I Trauma Center?

  • Access to specialists is crucial. A team of physicians and other providers specially trained to care for trauma patients is available 24/7.
  • Experience is mandatory. To be verified, a center must treat a minimum number of trauma patients each year as determined by the American College of Surgeons.
  • Trauma patients are a priority. Operating rooms must always be ready with lab and radiology services to care for adults and the special needs of children.
  • Highly-trained teams are in place. Nursing staff are required to have advanced training in adult and pediatric trauma.

History of Level I Trauma at HCMC

In the mid-1980s, Hennepin County Medical Center was the first hospital in Minnesota to qualify as a Level I Trauma Center under new national standards developed by the American College of Surgeons (ACS). As a Level I Trauma Center, HCMC’s services achieved this distinction because operating rooms, surgeons, imaging, labs, and all the services needed to care for seriously ill or injured patients are available 24/7.Recently retired HCMC Trauma Director, Dr. Arthur Ney says, "We see a lot of patients with injuries that involve multiple systems. A single patient may come in with broken bones, a traumatic brain injury and internal injuries that require the care of multiple specialists. The availability of a team of experts working with the right specialist, at the right time, for patients with complex injuries is what sets us apart from non-trauma centers."

Becoming a world-class trauma center didn’t happen overnight. The innovative groundwork for achieving Level I Trauma status began many years before the ACS verification existed. Dr. Ernest Ruiz, chief of emergency medicine from 1971-1985 and others championed the development of emergency medicine at HCMC. He was instrumental in establishing the trauma stabilization room, now the community standard in Emergency Departments across the US, where complex surgical procedures and other treatments could be ready and waiting for the patient as soon as they reached the hospital.

"Over the years," explains Dr. Ney, "technology advances have significantly improved care. Imaging advancements mean we can diagnose problems faster. We can treat people faster and with less invasive technologies, so recovery is faster. We have multiple blood and coagulation products available to our resuscitation area. Pre-thawed universal donor plasma is available at all times so that we can immediately initiate therapy to correct lost coagulation factors. And we have superb Emergency Medicine Services that know how to start treatment in the field and physicians at other hospitals who can stabilize patients and make it safe for them to travel for critical care."

Acute Services

  • 54 bed/4 critical bay emergency department
  • Trauma surgery staff with 24-hour Operating Room coverage and 6 specialty

Intensive Care Units

  • 24-hour medical imaging services and interventional radiology
  • New Intensive Care Units for both adults and pediatrics that offer private rooms and family support amenities

Unique Programs

  • Burn Center: 17-bed intensive care unit that provides comprehensive burn, hypothermia, frostbite and complex wound care for adults and children. The Acute Burn Clinic attached to the Burn Center provides unique, specialized care for outpatients. Verified by the American Burn Association.
  • Cardiovascular: Leading program of open heart, thoracic, aortic, vascular, aneurysm and general thoracic and pulmonary surgery
  • Center for Hyperbaric Medicine: As the only multi-chamber HBO facility in Minnesota that is used 24 hours, 365 days per year for the emergency treatment of critically ill patients the HBO is used daily to treat gas gangrene, carbon monoxide poisoning, air embolism, decompression sickness and complex wounds. Member of the Undersea Hyperbaric Medical Society.
  • Orthopedics: HCMC’s orthopedic surgeons are international leaders in the care of fractures and injuries to bones and joints with expertise in managing complex fractures in patients with multiple injuries. An onsite research lab with bioengineering and bone physiologists provides a unique resource for clinicians and patients.
  • Primary Stroke Center: Hennepin Stroke Center is a Joint Commission certified primary stroke center and a national leader in the treatment of ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes with some of the fastest clot-busting drug delivery times in the U.S. and nationally recognized rehabilitation care for post-stroke patients.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury: Neurosurgery offers specialized care to pediatric and adult patients who have experienced severe traumatic brain injury. Onsite acute rehabilitation is available as well as Mild-to- Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic.
  • Rehabilitation: The hospital-based Miland E. Knapp Rehabilitation Center provides acute rehabilitation to adolescent and adult inpatients and outpatients. Eighty percent of inpatients are discharged to home. Knapp Rehab is recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) for its excellence in comprehensive rehabilitation care with special accreditation in brain injury and stroke therapy.