Definition and Overview

The word “trauma” is often associated with severe emotional and psychological distress usually due to severely unfortunate events or violent experience. In this context, however, it refers to pathological or physical trauma.

In medical term, “trauma” refers to a severe and often life-threatening injury that suddenly develops when the entire body or a part of it has been hit by a blunt object or due to sudden impact. This kind of injury is dangerous since the body can go into systemic shock, and vital organs can easily shut down rapidly. Thus, medical intervention is not only necessary but must also given in a timely manner to improve the chances of the patient surviving the condition.

Traumatic injuries are currently responsible for more than 120,000 deaths annually and blamed for over 80% and 60% of teen and childhood deaths, respectively. More than 50 million injuries per year, meanwhile, are classified as traumatic, and half of them are serious enough to require hospitalization.

Aside from coma or death, trauma can also leave a patient disabled, as in the case of around 8 million people worldwide.

There are many different types of trauma and are classified according to the body parts that have been affected and the extent of the condition. Some of the most common ones are injuries to the brain, spine, abdomen, and chest. They may also be categorized as closed or penetrating. The injury is considered closed when the trauma happens inside the body. For instance, a traumatic brain injury can develop due blunt force trauma to the head. On the other hand, it’s considered as penetrating such as in the case of a stab wound with a knife or scissor.

Fractures and burns are also traumatic injuries, as well as contusions, especially when they affect vital organs such as the heart.

Cause of Condition

Traumatic injuries happen for many reasons. Some of the most common are:

  • Falls
  • Accidents
  • Blunt force trauma to the head or anywhere in the body
  • Burns
  • Stab wounds

If the injury is severe, the organs tend to shut down. This is the body’s natural mechanism of defending these organs. They try to keep as much of the energy as possible in order for the body to heal. However, blood loss, among other factors, can complicate the recovery process, and thus, immediate medical intervention is strongly needed.

Key Symptoms

  • Fractures
  • Contusions
  • Open wound
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Edema
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Feeling of coldness as temperature drops
  • Increased metabolism

One of the biggest dangers of trauma is that it doesn’t always show any outward symptom. It’s possible that the person looks fine on the outside but is already suffering from internal bleeding or organ damage on the inside.

Although the traumatic injury itself happens suddenly, symptoms may take a while to manifest. By then, however, the damage has already become significant, making the treatment more difficult and complicated as well as less effective.

Who to See and Types of Treatment Available

First responders such as EMTs perform the initial examination in a case of trauma. With the goal to quickly assess the cause and nature of the impact, these medical professionals are trained to multitask to easily locate the injured site, predict the kind of trauma, take vital signs, and in some cases, revive the patient.

If the patient has been revived or if the condition has been stabilized, the team of EMTs will bring the patient to the emergency room or trauma centre where the patient can receive immediate treatment. A trauma center is a special unit in health care facilities that is fully equipped to conduct a wide variety of tests including imaging using X-ray, CT scan, and PET scan and in handling different types of traumatic injuries, from brain to burns and fractures.

Different types of trauma require the specialty of different doctors. For instance, a fracture requires an orthopedic specialist while an injury to the brain requires a neurologist. For this reason, trauma centres are composed of a group of medical professionals who are specializing in different fields.

The main goal of doctors is to keep the vitals of the patient as stable as possible.

If there’s massive blood loss, blood transfusion must be carried out as soon as possible. Internal bleeding can be handled by opening the site and closing the wound. Certain medications can also be provided to release excess fluid or prevent seizures as in the case of a brain injury.

When the injuries are severe, it’s common for doctors to place the patient in an induced coma. In this procedure, the brain function is essentially shut down to give it enough time to heal properly. At this point, the vital signs of the patient are closely monitored using the machines attached. Any succeeding treatments including surgeries will be provided once the patient’s condition has stabilized.


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