Salvaging Wreckage

With more than three hundred thousand motor vehicle deaths in the US each year, and more than one thousand in Georgia alone, most of us either have been directly affected by a car accident or worry that we will be.

A new research project could steer those statistics in a better direction. Emory’s Injury Prevention Research Center, along with Grady Memorial Hospital and collaborators at the University of Michigan, have been awarded almost $4 million for a five-year project to study motor vehicle crashes in the metro-Atlanta area that result in injuries treated at Grady. The project is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and will create a Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network (CIREN) center for research.

With a goal to improve vehicle safety and support injury prevention, CIREN centers collect data on the performance of vehicles in crashes and the resulting injuries. CIREN is one of the NHTSA’s major data collection systems for motor vehicle crashes. Following an extensive quality-control process, CIREN case data are then made available to the public.

“Data from CIREN centers help drive rulemaking to make vehicles safer for passengers,” says Jonathan Rupp, associate professor of emergency medicine and principal investigator of the newly formed CIREN center at Emory and Grady. “CIREN relies on high-volume trauma centers like Grady’s Marcus Trauma Center to conduct research on injuries following car crashes. This CIREN award would not have been possible without the strong, collaborative relationship between Emory and Grady.”

Participants will be enrolled in the study when brought by ambulance or helicopter to Grady, Georgia’s busiest Level 1 trauma center, following a crash. The Emory/Grady center is one of seven designated CIREN centers in the US.

CIREN centers are awarded funding for research for either a medical center arm or an engineering center arm. The Emory/Grady collaboration is one of two programs in the country that have been awarded both a medical center and an engineering center designation.

“This is an incredible honor that reflects the national prominence of Grady’s Marcus Trauma Center and the expertise of the engineering and medical teams brought together for this project,” says David Wright, professor of emergency medicine at Emory and coprincipal investigator of the CIREN award. “Collaborators will spend the next five years collecting and analyzing data to better understand the mechanisms of injuries from modern automobiles.”

Researchers expect to investigate sixty to sixty-five metro-Atlanta automobile crashes per year that result in injury. At the completion of the study, the investigators hope to have data on more than three hundred patients injured in crashes.

“Motor vehicle accidents are the No. 1 trauma we see at Grady, resulting in thousands of crash victims each year,” says Peter Rhee, chief of acute care surgery at Grady Health System. “We are excited to continue contributing to the work in the new CIREN center, in hopes of better understanding how to continually improve the safety of our drivers and passengers.”

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