Pitt to Lead National Trauma Research Network

The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences have been awarded a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) contract that could lead to $90 million in research over the next decade to improve trauma care for both civilians and military personnel.

The contract will launch with a $10.8 million project to create a nationwide network of trauma systems and centers that will contribute to research aimed at improving military trauma care. “Trauma” includes severe medical crises that require immediate medical assistance, such as gunshot wounds, injuries from car crashes, or extensive burns. The Linking Investigations in Trauma and Emergency Services (LITES) Network will collect a large amount of data spanning from prehospital care through recovery and hospital discharge to link and identify opportunities for improvement in care across the nation.

In its initial project, the LITES Network is expected to provide epidemiological data on moderate and severe injuries in the United States and identify any regional variations in the types of injuries and the way they’re managed.  

“The LITES network will allow us to study the continuum of trauma care from the first emergency medical services contact through the emergency department and on to the operating rooms and intensive care units,” said Frank X. Guyette, associate professor of emergency medicine in Pitt’s School of Medicine, medical director of STAT MedEvac, and co-principal investigator of LITES. “The lessons learned through this project will teach us how to better care for ill and injured civilians and protect our soldiers in the future.”

“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—including the gold standard, randomized clinical trials—to find out what approach to care works best to keep people who are injured in a trauma from dying,” said Jason L. Sperry, principal investigator and professor of surgery and critical care medicine at Pitt’s School of Medicine, and a trauma surgeon at UPMC.

A recent National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine report determined that hundreds of U.S. service members’ lives could likely be saved in future wars with optimal trauma care, and that those gains would lead to tens of thousands of civilian lives saved if such improvements were shared with U.S. trauma centers.

“That report set a bold goal to achieve zero preventable deaths after injury and minimal trauma-related disability,” said Sperry. “Serendipitously, the LITES Network has the potential to spur research that will lead to clinical advancements to achieve that ambitious goal.”

The Pitt Graduate School of Public Health’s Epidemiology Data Center will be the data coordinating center, while the Multidisciplinary Acute Care Research Organization at Pitt will be the clinical coordinating center.  

Unlike most multicenter studies of this magnitude, LITES Network projects will be made more efficient by relying on a central Institutional Review Board at Pitt. This will allow the network more flexibility to respond quickly to specific DoD project requests.

The Coalition for National Trauma Research, composed of six leading trauma-related organizations, will be a key partner in the project by providing expertise in advocacy and strategic planning.

The LITES Network contract follows an established track record of Pitt successfully producing valuable results for the DoD, including the Prehospital Air Medical Plasma Trial, the Study of Tranexamic Acid During Air Medical Prehospital Trial and the Traumatic Brain Injury Endpoints Development initiative.