UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies Becomes Northern Colorado’s First Level I Trauma Center 

UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies. Photo courtesy of UCHealth.

Patients and Community Now have Access to the Highest Quality and Most Advanced Trauma Care North of Denver

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has designated UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies (MCR) as a Level I Trauma Center, making it the first and only hospital in northern Colorado with the highest classification for adult trauma care.

Level I recognizes the hospital can treat severe and complex injuries, giving residents of northern Colorado rapid access to top-level emergency and trauma care without a trip to metro Denver. The state finalized the designation on July 14 after a trauma designation survey that followed nearly two decades of building services to support an advanced trauma care program to serve the region.

“Not only is this a great achievement for our hospital, but it’s also great news for our patients and our community,” said Kevin Unger, MCR’s president, and CEO. “For years, we have been delivering a very high level of trauma care. This designation officially recognizes us for that excellence and sets us on a path of continued progress.”

Hospital trauma designations are determined according to varying criteria, including surgical resources and patient volumes. Key elements required to be a Level I trauma center include around-the-clock coverage by trauma surgeons and prompt availability of specialists in orthopedics, neurosurgery, and anesthesiology, among others. Such facilities also must be leaders in trauma prevention and education, conduct research, and meet volume requirements for treating severely injured patients.

In 2021, MCR provided care to 1,853 patients who met trauma registry inclusion criteria. This was more than double the 880 trauma patients who were cared for when the hospital opened in 2007. The majority of trauma cases involve blunt injuries that are often the result of incidents such as falls, motor vehicle crashes, and pedestrians or bicyclists hit by vehicles. MCR also serves as a regional referral destination for patients from dozens of hospitals in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. 

“It truly takes a village to care for a patient, especially our most critically injured patients,” said Dr. Warren Dorlac, the hospital’s trauma medical director. “It starts with EMS and law enforcement in the field. Then at the hospital, it’s the nurses, doctors, and technicians. It’s also everyone in the laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, the operating room, the intensive care unit, nutrition, environmental services, therapists, and everyone in between.”

For many years, Colorado’s only Level I trauma centers were located in the metro Denver region, and northern Colorado patients with the most severe injuries had to fly to Denver for care. 

“This highest level of trauma care means our most critically injured patients stay closer to home and their families can more easily stay or visit them,” said Dr. Dorlac added.

The next step for the trauma program is to pursue national certification with the American College of Surgeons.

Leann Krayenhagen is a certified nurse anesthetist who responded to countless traumas when she worked at MCR. In 2017, though, she found herself on the other side of trauma – as a patient. She was critically injured when the motorcycle she was driving collided with a truck in the Poudre Canyon, west of Fort Collins. By chance, there was an MCR physician and a critical care nurse in the cars behind the crash who were able to provide prompt care on-scene and call for help. She was flown to MCR, where she was pumped with numerous units of blood and taken into surgery. 

“I think all these pieces of the puzzle had to be there. If there was one piece that was missing, I wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I knew I was in the best place. I knew I was in the best hands.”

With this latest designation, half of the state’s six Level I trauma centers are UCHealth facilities. This is a great testament to UCHealth’s commitment to providing advanced care throughout Colorado, Unger added. UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central and UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital are also Level I Trauma Centers.

MCR is certified by The Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center, a classification awarded to programs that have the staff, resources, and processes in place to deliver fast, advanced care to stroke patients. In 2020, Fortune/IBM Watson Health named the hospital as a 100 Top Hospital. In 2021, U.S. News & World Report ranked the hospital as the No. 2 hospital in Colorado and recognized it as a high performer for abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, heart attack, aortic valve surgery, heart bypass surgery, heart failure, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), maternity care, kidney failure, back surgery (neuro and orthopedics), stroke, hip fracture, hip replacement, pneumonia, and urology. 

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