Definition and Overview
Trauma surgery consultation, unlike other types of medical consultation, is a particularly challenging and fast-paced practice. This is because there is no time for lengthy deliberations and a moment’s hesitation can spell disaster for the patient who requires trauma surgery. Research and statistics show that trauma surgery often deals with patients suffering from injuries in the abdominal area although other parts of the body are also susceptible in the event of an accident or other trauma-inducing events.
Over the past decades, the field of trauma surgery consultation and assessment has improved to the level where medical professionals have a much better understanding of the details that can contribute to patient death or morbidity in the event of severe injuries.
Contrary to popular belief, the field of trauma surgery does not exclusively deal with operative procedures. In fact, trauma surgeons can dispense non-operative treatment methods for trauma injuries.
Trauma surgeons are equipped with extensive training, which enables them to directly address injuries sustained in the head, neck, chest, abdominal area, arms, hands, legs, and feet. Musculoskeletal trauma is quite common among patients entering the trauma ward or the emergency room. There are also a number of specialists in the field, such as neurosurgeons (for injuries in the central nervous system), maxillofacial surgeons (for injuries in the face), cardiothoracic surgeons (for more complex damage to the vital organs in the thoracic region), vascular surgeons (for injuries involving the arteries and blood vessels), and plastic surgeons (for reconstructing body parts affected by trauma).
In some cases, trauma surgery is the not the first and final surgical care that a patient will receive. When the patient comes into the hospital, a trauma surgeon will initiate resuscitation and stabilize the patient’s condition. After the trauma treatment or operation, the patient will undergo further evaluation and injury management to assure full recovery.
Essentially, trauma surgery consultation is performed for the following reasons:
- Immediately address possibly life-threatening injuries and save the life of the patient
- Assure the patient’s full recovery by providing non-emergency treatment methods as follow-ups to manage the damage caused by injuries.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
Anyone who experienced injury due to trauma can immediately see a trauma surgeon for a consultation, often upon arrival at the hospital emergency room. As mentioned earlier, there are different specialties in the field of trauma surgery. Depending on the type of injury that the patient has sustained, the hospital can delegate the consultation to practitioners that can best provide the patient with the most appropriate medical care. Factors to consider are the extent of the injury, and which injured body part threatens the patient’s life and function the most.
Expected results of a trauma surgery consultation are the resuscitation of the patient and stabilization of his condition before further treatment or procedures are prescribed.
How is the Procedure Performed?
There are three objectives to a trauma surgery consultation:
- The rapid identification of injuries that can threaten the patient’s life.
- The initiation of appropriate and adequate supportive therapy.
- The efficient organization of definitive therapy or facilitation of transfer to another medical facility that can provide the patient with definitive therapy.
These objectives are quite a challenge since trauma care and surgery requires speedy decision-making and immediate action.
Upon admission to the hospital’s emergency room, the patient will undergo triage care. This is to minimize the likelihood of the patient’s immediate death because of clinical deterioration. Vital signs can steadily drop as the seconds after the accident tick by. Triage care involves consideration of vital signs, the age of the patient, and if the patient has pre-existing pulmonary or cardiac diseases that can exacerbate the injuries sustained.
In the event that the patient is suffering from multiple injuries, the triage team can help in determining precedence. For example, a patient whose injuries involve obstructed airways will be provided with procedures to remove the obstruction first. Depending on the kind of injuries sustained by the patient, the emergency team will have to adapt to the severity or gravity of the injury in processing the initial triage assessment.
After the initial triage assessment, a trauma surgeon, with his or her own trauma team, will come in to determine if the patient can be provided with definitive treatment methods or if the medical facility is only equipped with resources for stabilization procedures. The trauma team will work closely with the emergency staff, and together they will use available information to evaluate and resuscitate the patient.
After the trauma consultation, the trauma surgeon can decide whether the patient will need to undergo operative or non-operative procedures. Other specialists can be called in to address the needs of the patients, and other hospital services might be required, such as blood and lab tests, IV access, and close monitoring of the patient’s vital signs.
Among the specialists who are often part of a trauma team include orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, who can also provide consultation services. The patient must receive an early consultation with a neurosurgeon if he or she has suffered serious injuries to the central nervous system.
Possible Risks and Complications
Risks and complications are among the things that a trauma surgery consultation should immediately minimize. Trauma surgeons often face the challenge of weighing possible risks and complications in saving the patient’s life. When trauma surgery is not performed immediately, the patient can suffer from a range of problems, including, but not limited to, amputation of body parts, organ failure, and in some events, death.
- American Association for the Surgery of Trauma
- National Foundation for Trauma Care