Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch (PTCIB)

Female doctor listen to young girl's heart with stethoscope while mother looks on.Overview/Mission

PTCIB supports research and research training focused on preventing, treating, and reducing all forms of childhood trauma, injury, and critical illness across the continuum of care. The branch encourages collaborative inquiry in basic, clinical, and translational research to promote discoveries, new treatment paradigms, and interventions that improve the quality of life for children and families who have experienced all forms trauma, life-threatening injury, or critical illness. Topics of interest include respiratory failure, multiple organ dysfunction syndrome, traumatic brain injury, sepsis, end-of-life issues in pediatric intensive care unit populations, child maltreatment, violence, and other causes of severe traumatic injury.

Care and Treatment of Trauma and Critical Illness for Pediatric Populations

Gap: Trauma and critical illness in children are underrecognized, but major public health problems. They are particularly concerning because children's psychological and physiological responses to trauma differ from those of adults, yet, treatment is still often based on studies involving adults.


  • Support research that increases the understanding of the pathophysiology of psychological trauma, injury, and critical illness and associated pain to optimize treatment outcomes and prevent future difficulties in child populations.
  • Support research that specifically examines the ways in which treatments in the pediatric intensive care unit or emergency department for adults can be modified to address the unique needs of children.

Collaborative Multidisciplinary Research across the Continuum of Care

Gap:  The current approach to studying pediatric trauma, injury prevention, and critical illness is often compartmentalized, with each discipline operating independently.

Priority:  Support research that fosters collaborations among multidisciplinary teams of research scientists and allied health professionals to address research gaps and disparities in health outcomes among traumatized, injured, and critically ill children.  

Ethical and Psychosocial Issues Related to the Care of Critically Ill Children and Their Families

Gap:  Very little quality empirical research has been published in this scientific area as it relates to pediatric critical care practice.  

Priorities: Focus on ethical and psychosocial issues in the following areas: family/caregiver/health care provider burden and distress; foregoing life-sustaining therapies, end-of-life care, organ donation, palliative care, and bereavement; decision-making/communication in the pediatric intensive care unit; and morbidities and functional outcomes related to pediatric intensive care unit treatment modalities. 

Interplay of Physical and Psychological Trauma in Children

Gap: Little is known about the independent and combined effects of physical and psychological trauma in injured and critically ill children, or how these forms of trauma affect children's recovery and well-being.

Priority: Examines the distinctive aspects of psychological and physical trauma, the complex interplay of those traumas, and how they interact in care and treatment.

Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome (MODS) in Critically Ill Children

Gap: MODS is the simultaneous dysfunction of two or more organ systems and is responsible for substantial morbidity and mortality among critically ill children. However, because it is not related to a single organ system, this topic is understudied and poorly understood.

Priority: Research the state of the science pertaining to MODS and its pathophysiologic process, treatment, etiology, and unique phenotypes.

Prevention and Treatment of Life-Threatening Traumatic Injuries in Children

Gap:  Childhood injury is a serious and understudied public health problem in the United States and around the world. Many non-fatal injuries require hospitalization or result in disabling conditions that may have a significant impact on a child's long-term health and well-being.

Priority:  Support general and cause-specific prevention and intervention research studies on areas most likely to cause death or disability,including motor vehicle crashes, firearms, poisonings, drowning, self-injurious behavior, fires, burns, and injuries from all forms of violence against children.

  • Valerie Maholmes,Branch Chief
    Main Research Areas: Pediatric trauma: diagnosis, treatment, prevention; childhood adversity, child traumatic stress, violence and violence-related injury, abuse, neglect, maltreatment; training: child maltreatment, violence, pediatric injury prevention, emergency care; emergency medical and psychological response/services to children
  • Tammara Jenkins, Program Official/Nurse Consultant
    Main Research Areas: Pediatric critical care and injury: general, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, ethics, end of life issues, palliative care; training: pediatric critical care and pediatric trauma
  • Robert Tamburro, Medical Officer
    Main Research Areas: Pediatric critical care and injury: general, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, basic research, medical devices; pediatric injury: diagnosis, treatment, prevention; pediatric traumatic brain injury: diagnosis, treatment, prevention; training: pediatric critical care and pediatric trauma
  • Lynne Haverkos, Special Research Volunteer
    Main Research Areas: Pediatric injury prevention and epidemiology, emergency care; emergency medical response/services to children
  • Tiffany Ferguson, Extramural Staff Assistant


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