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Pediatric research areas of focus

The research team at Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas, has been involved in pediatric trauma and injury research since 2007.

Young girl playing outside.

Childhood trauma and injury research

Doctors and scientists at Dell Children's are currently focusing on four categories of pediatric trauma research: child abuse, substance use and addiction, drowning prevention, and traumatic brain injury and other orthopedic injuries.

Researching child abuse and non-accidental trauma (NAT) in Texas

According to the CDC, at least 1 in 7 children experience abuse or neglect each year. This public health problem can cause serious physical injuries and death, and has lasting effects on the physical and mental health of children.

Level I pediatric trauma centers, like Dell Children’s Medical Center, serve large geographic areas and provide a high level of care for children with the most severe and life-threatening injuries from any cause, including child abuse. Scientists at Dell Children’s collaborate with a multidisciplinary team as part of our Level I trauma care and research (trauma service providers and child abuse resource and education (CARE) team). We also work with community groups to conduct research to better understand patterns and factors involved with child abuse and neglect in Texas. Our research aims to improve the detection of abuse and equity in hospital screening protocols, guide clinical decision-making, and help prevent child abuse and neglect in Central Texas.

Research of screening and interventions for risky alcohol and substance use in teens

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 9 out of 10 people with addiction started using substances before they were 18 years of age. Identifying pediatric patients with risky substance use, including alcohol consumption, and intervening through brief motivational interviews, may help prevent future or continued substance use. One of the most widely endorsed and disseminated approaches for addressing adolescent substance use is Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). SBIRT is both a public health model and a set of protocols for detecting an individual’s level of risk for a substance use disorder, and includes guidelines for early intervention prior to the need for more extensive or specialized treatment.

Scientists at Dell Children’s Medical Center study substance use in adolescents by investigating the most effective screening and intervention modalities.

Drowning prevention and water safety research

Scientists at Dell Children’s are focusing on drowning prevention and water safety. Our study aims to tackle research questions on a range of topics related to drowning and drowning risk. We are collaborating with water safety community leaders in Texas and around the world to develop research projects that address the layers of protection and risks related to drowning. We are analyzing treatment protocols for children of various ages who have ingested water (drown) in a body of water. Our research also includes how to prevent drowning events.

When people are not around water, there is a lot that can be done to be better prepared for water time or a water emergency.  Our research assesses the effectiveness of swimming lessons and water safety training, and exploring the usefulness of pool barriers and water access alert systems.

When spending time around water, there are many layers of protection we can put in place. One area of our research focuses on how adults supervise children around water and their perceptions of water safety.

During a drowning incident, seconds can make a difference in survival and outcome. At Dell Children’s, we maintain a submersion registry of all children treated for drowning injury. That data is being analyzed to better understand important factors that may help caregivers and first responders react effectively.

When someone has drowned – the process of experiencing respiratory impairment from submersion/immersion in liquid; outcomes are classified as death, morbidity and no morbidity – critical decisions can affect one’s physical and emotional health. Using the submersion registry, our scientists are analyzing factors in the clinical care of children who have experienced drowning.

View our drowning report

Researching brain trauma clinical care

At Dell Children’s Medical Center, we have initiated and are participating in local and nationwide studies on the treatment pathways and outcomes of pediatric traumatic  brain injuries, non-accidental trauma, solid organ injuries and orthopedic injuries.

As a member of the ATOMAC Pediatric Trauma Research Network, we collaborate with other Level I pediatric trauma centers to investigate how pediatric trauma care can be improved with a multi-centered approach. Through our research, we aim to inform and improve the clinical practice of pediatric trauma care.

Pediatric research areas of focus