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Classification and external resources
File:US Navy 040723-N-8977L-008 Navy Hospital Corpsmen and Medical Officers assess the treatment and prognosis of a patient with a gunshot wound.jpg
Hospital corpsmen and medical officers of the United States Navy assess an intubated patient with a gunshot wound
ICD-10 T79.
ICD-9 900-957
DiseasesDB 28858
MedlinePlus 000024
eMedicine trauma
MeSH D014947

Trauma or injury refers to "a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident."[1] It can also be describes as "a physical wound or injury, such as a fracture or blow."[2] Major trauma (defined by an Injury Severity Score of greater than 15)[3] can result in secondary complications such as circulatory shock, respiratory failure and death. Resuscitation of a trauma patient often involves multiple management procedures. Trauma is the sixth leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 10% of all mortality, and is a serious public health problem with significant social and economic costs.


Trauma can be classified by the affected area of the body[4] (percentages of total incidence[5]):

Trauma may also be classified by the affected demographic group (for example, trauma in the pregnant, pediatric, or geriatric patient).[4] They may also be classified by the type of force applied to the body, such as blunt trauma versus penetrating trauma.

Causes and risk factors

Blunt trauma is the leading cause of traumatic death in the United States.[6] Most cases of blunt trauma are caused by motor vehicle accidents.[6] Falls, a subset of blunt trauma, are the second most common cause of traumatic death.[7] In most cases a fall of greater than three times the victim's height is defined as a severe fall.[7] Penetrating trauma is caused when a foreign object such as a bullet or a knife enters a tissue of the body, creating an open wound. In the United States most deaths caused by penetrating trauma occur in urban areas and 80% of these deaths are caused by firearms.[8] Blast injury is a complex cause of polytrauma. It commonly includes both blunt and penetrating trauma and may also be accompanied by a burn injury.

By identifying risk factors present within a community and creating solutions to decrease the incidence of injury, trauma referral systems can help to enhance the overall health of its population.[9] Ingestion of alcohol and illicit drugs are risk factors for trauma, particularly traffic collisions, violence and abuse.[5] Long-acting benzodiazepines increase the risk of trauma in elderly people.[5]


File:Shotgun wound-xray.JPG

Radiograph of a close-range shotgun blast injury to the knee. Birdshot pellets are visible within and around the shattered patella, distal femur and proximal tibia.

Physical examination

The purpose of the primary survey is to identify life-threatening problems. Upon completion of the primary survey, the secondary survey is begun. This may occur during transport or upon arrival at the hospital. The secondary survey consists of a systematic assessment of the abdominal, pelvic and thoracic area, complete inspection of the body surface to find all injuries, and a neurological examination. The purpose of the secondary survey is to identify all injuries so that they may be treated. A missed injury is one which is not found during the initial assessment (for example, as a patient is brought into a hospital's emergency department), but rather manifests itself at a later point in time.[10]


X-rays of the chest and pelvis are commonly performed in major trauma.[5] Focused assessment with sonography for trauma (FAST), can also be used. Computed tomography (CT) scans are the gold standard in imaging in major trauma.[11] They however may only be performed in people with a relatively stable blood pressure, heart rate, and sufficient oxygenation.[5] Full-body CT scans known as pan-scans improve survival in those who have suffered major trauma.[12] The scans are done using intravenous radiocontrast but not oral contrast.[13] There are concerns of radiation exposure and concerns regarding negative effects of contrast on the kidneys. However some centers routinely due CTs with contrast before verifying renal function even in the elderly and have not found negative side effects with respect to the kidneys.[11] With modern imaging technology a complete scan can be performed in less than 10 minutes.[5] In the emergency department in the United States CT or MRI imaging is done in 15% of people who present with injuries as of 2007 (up from 6% in 1998).[14]

Surgical techniques

Surgical techniques, such as diagnostic peritoneal lavage, placement of a thoracostomy tube, or pericardiocentesis are often used in cases of severe blunt trauma to the chest or abdomen, especially in the setting of deteriorating hemodynamic stability. In those who are hypotensive due to presumed internal abdominal bleeding transfer to the operating room for a laporotomy is the preferred method of determining a definitive diagnosis.[5]


File:US Navy 010531-N-3889M-004 Navy Corpsman Field Training Exercise.jpg

A Navy corpsmen listens for the correct tube placement on an intubated trauma victim during a search and rescue (SAR) exercise

People who have suffered trauma may require specialized care, including surgery and blood transfusion. Outcomes are better if this occurs as quickly as possible thus the so called golden hour of trauma. This is not a strict deadline, but recognizes that many deaths which could have been prevented by appropriate care occur in a relatively short time after injury as shown by the fact most deaths by trauma occur in the first several hours after the event.[15]

Community-based trauma referral systems seek to decrease overall injury-related morbidity and mortality and years of life lost within a population by ensuring the provision of optimal care during both the acute and late phases of injury.[9] Such systems have been established in many places to provide rapid care for injured people. Research has shown that deaths from physical trauma decline where there are organized trauma systems.[citation needed] The care of acutely injured people is a public health issue that involves bystanders and community members, health care professionals, and health care systems. It encompasses prehospital assessment and care by emergency medical services personnel, emergency department assessment, treatment, and stabilization, and in-hospital care among all age groups.[16] An established trauma system network is also an important component of community disaster preparedness, facilitating the care of victims of natural disasters or terrorist attacks.[9]

Stabilization and transportation

File:Schockraum Uniklinik MA.jpg

The trauma room in the emergency department of the University Hospital in Mannheim, Germany

In the prehospital setting the use of stabilization techniques improve the chances of a person surviving the transport to the nearest trauma-equipped hospital. After ensuring their own safety and taking isolation precautions, a primary survey is performed, consisting of checking and treating airway, breathing, and circulation (called the ABC's) than an assessment of the level of consciousness.[10] To prevent further injury, unnecessary movement of the spine is minimized by securing the neck with a cervical collar, and the back with a long spine board with head supports, or other medical transport device such as a Kendrick extrication device, before moving the person.[17] Unless the person is in imminent danger of death, first responders will typically "load and go," transporting immediately to the nearest appropriate facility.[10]

Rapid transportation of those who are severely injured is associated with a improved outcomes.[5] In the prehospital environment, the availability of advanced life support does not improve outcomes for major trauma, when compared with basic life support.[18][19] The evidence is also inconclusive with respect to support for prehospital intravenous fluid resuscitation and some evidence has found it may be harmful.[20]

People who have severe trauma frequently require specialized physicians and equipment. Designated trauma centers have improved outcomes compared to non designated centers.[5] The transfer directly to a trauma center is associated with improved outcomes compared to transfer to a non trauma center.[21]

Intravenous fluids

Traditionally high volume intravenous fluids were given in people with hemodynamic instability due to trauma. This is still appropriate for those with isolated extremity, thermal or head injuries.[22] The current evidence however supports limiting the use of fluids for penetrating thorax and abdominal injuries allowing mild hypotension to persist.[4][22] If blood products are needed a greater relative use of fresh frozen plasma and platelets to packed red blood cells has been found to result in improved survival and less overall blood product usage.[23]

Blood substitutes such as hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers and perfluorocarbon emulsions are in development. As of June 2008 however there are none available for commercial use in North America or Europe.[24][25] The only countries where these products are available for general use is South Africa and Russia.[24]


In people who are bleeding due to trauma tranexamic acid decreases mortality.[26] Factor VII may also be appropriate in certain cases associated with severe bleeding[22] such as those who have bleeding disorders.[5] While it decreases blood us it does not appear to decrease mortality.[27]


Damage control surgery is employed in the management of trauma.[5] This involves performing the least number of procedures to save life and limb.[5] Less critical procedures are left until the person is in a more stable.[5]


Death from trauma have been classic described as occurring during three peaks: immediately, early, and late. The immediate deaths are usually due to apnea, severe brain or high spinal cord injury, and rupture of the heart or large blood vessels. The early deaths occur within minutes to hours and are often due to a subdural hematoma, epidural hematoma, hemothorax, pneumothorax, ruptured spleen, liver laceration, or pelvic fractures. This is known as the golden hour. The late deaths occur days or weeks after the injury.[10] This classical distribution however may no longer be occurring in the United States due to improvements in care.[5]

Long term prognosis is also frequently complicated by pain with over half of people having moderately severe pain one year later.[28] Many also experience a reduced quality of life years later.[29] 20% of people who sustain a traumatic injury will sustain some form of disability.[30] Physical trauma can lead to development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[31] However, a study found no correlation between the severity of trauma and the development of PTSD.[32]


File:Injuries world map - Death - WHO2004.svg

Deaths from injuries per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004[33]

  no data
  < 25
  > 275


Incidence of accidents by activity

Trauma is the sixth leading cause of death (accounting for 10% of all mortality) worldwide, and the fifth leading cause of significant disability.[3] In people between the ages of 1–45 years, trauma is the leading cause of death.[3][4][15][30][34] The primary causes of death are central nervous system injury, followed by exsanguination.[3]


Patients who were admitted into an ICU and received a trauma diagnosis causes a negative change in their health related quality of life with a potential to create anxiety and symptoms of depression.[35]

In children

Accidents are the leading cause of death in children 1–14 years of age.[30] In the US approximatively 16,000,000 children go to an emergency department due to some form of injury every year.[30] Male children are more frequently injured then female children by a ratio of two to one.[30] The top five worldwide unintentional injuries in children are as follows:[36]

Cause Number of deaths resulting
Traffic collision

260,000 per year


175,000 per year


96,000 per year


47,000 per year


45,000 per year

File:Leading causes of death among children worldwide.svg

An important part of managing trauma in children is weight estimation. A number of methods to estimate weight exist including the: Broselow tape, Leffler formula, and Theron formula.[37]

See also


  1. "Trauma"., LLC. 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  2. Template:Cite dictionary
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Søreide K (2009). "Epidemiology of major trauma". The British journal of surgery 96 (7): 697. doi:10.1002/bjs.6643. PMID 19526611.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Marx, J (2010). Rosen's emergency medicine: concepts and clinical practice 7th edition. Philadelphia: Mosby/Elsevier. pp. 243–842. ISBN 9780323054720. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Rosen2010" defined multiple times with different content
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 Bonatti, H; Calland, JF (2008). "Trauma". Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America 26 (3): 625–48. doi:10.1016/j.emc.2008.05.001. PMID 18655938.
  6. 6.0 6.1 DiPrima Jr., PA. McGraw-Hill's EMT-Basic. McGraw-Hill. pp. 227–33. ISBN 978-0-07-149679-7.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Dickenson ET, Limmer D, O'Keefe MF (2009). Emergency Care. ISBN 978-0-13-500523-1.
  8. Medzon R, Mitchell EJ (2005). Introduction to Emergency Medicine. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Willkins. pp. 393–431. ISBN 078173200x.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Hoyt, DB; Coimbra, R (2007). "Trauma systems". Surgical Clinics of North America 87 (1): 21–35, v–vi. doi:10.1016/j.suc.2006.09.012. PMID 17127121.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Committee on Trauma, American College of Surgeons (2008). ATLS: Advanced Trauma Life Support Program for Doctors (8th ed.). Chicago: American College of Surgeons. ISBN 9781880696316.
  11. 11.0 11.1 McGillicuddy EA, Schuster KM, Kaplan LJ, et al. (2010). "Contrast-induced nephropathy in elderly trauma patients". J Trauma 68 (2): 294–7. doi:10.1097/TA.0b013e3181cf7e40. PMID 20154540.
  12. Huber-Wagner S, Lefering R, Qvick LM, et al. (2009). "Effect of whole-body CT during trauma resuscitation on survival: a retrospective, multicentre study". Lancet 373 (9673): 1455–61. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60232-4. PMID 19321199.
  13. Allen TL, Mueller MT, Bonk RT, Harker CP, Duffy OH, Stevens MH (2004). "Computed tomographic scanning without oral contrast solution for blunt bowel and mesenteric injuries in abdominal trauma". J Trauma 56 (2): 314–22. doi:10.1097/01.TA.0000058118.86614.51. PMID 14960973.
  14. Korley FK, Pham JC, Kirsch TD (2010). "Use of advanced radiology during visits to US emergency departments for injury-related conditions, 1998-2007". JAMA 304 (13): 1465–71. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1408. PMID 20924012.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Template:Cite dictionary
  16. "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Injury Prevention and Control: Injury Response: Acute Injury Care".
  17. Karbi, OA; Caspari, DA; Tator, CH (1988). "Extrication, immobilization and radiologic investigation of patients with cervical spine injuries". Canadian Medical Association Journal 139 (7): 617–21. PMC 1268249. Retrieved 2010-10-30.
  18. Stiell IG, Nesbitt LP, Pickett W, et al. (2008). "The OPALS Major Trauma Study: impact of advanced life-support on survival and morbidity". CMAJ 178 (9): 1141–52. doi:10.1503/cmaj.071154. PMC 2292763. PMID 18427089.
  19. Liberman M, Roudsari BS (2007). "Prehospital trauma care: what do we really know?". Curr Opin Crit Care 13 (6): 691–6. doi:10.1097/MCC.0b013e3282f1e77e. PMID 17975392.
  20. Dretzke J, Sandercock J, Bayliss S, Burls A (2004). "Clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of prehospital intravenous fluids in trauma patients". Health Technol Assess 8 (23): iii, 1–103. PMID 15193210.
  21. Nirula R, Maier R, Moore E, Sperry J, Gentilello L (2010). "Scoop and run to the trauma center or stay and play at the local hospital: hospital transfer's effect on mortality". J Trauma 69 (3): 595–9; discussion 599–601. doi:10.1097/TA.0b013e3181ee6e32. PMID 20838131.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Roppolo LP, Wigginton JG, Pepe PE (2010). "Intravenous fluid resuscitation for the trauma patient". Curr Opin Crit Care 16 (4): 283–8. doi:10.1097/MCC.0b013e32833bf774. PMID 20601865.
  23. Greer SE, Rhynhart KK, Gupta R, Corwin HL (2010). "New developments in massive transfusion in trauma". Curr Opin Anaesthesiol 23 (2): 246–50. doi:10.1097/ACO.0b013e328336ea59. PMID 20104173.
  24. 24.0 24.1 "UpToDate Inc.". Retrieved 2010-11-13.
  25. Spahn DR, Kocian R (2005). "Artificial O2 carriers: status in 2005". Curr. Pharm. Des. 11 (31): 4099–114. doi:10.2174/138161205774913354. PMID 16378514.
  26. Crash-2 Trial, Collaborators; Shakur, H; Roberts, R; Bautista, R; Caballero, J; Coats, T; Dewan, Y; El-Sayed, H et al. (2010). "Effects of tranexamic acid on death, vascular occlusive events, and blood transfusion in trauma patients with significant haemorrhage (CRASH-2): a randomised, placebo-controlled trial". The Lancet 376 (9734): 23–32. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60835-5. PMID 20554319.
  27. Hauser CJ, Boffard K, Dutton R, et al. (September 2010). "Results of the CONTROL trial: efficacy and safety of recombinant activated Factor VII in the management of refractory traumatic hemorrhage". J Trauma 69 (3): 489–500. doi:10.1097/TA.0b013e3181edf36e. PMID 20838118.
  28. Rivara FP, Mackenzie EJ, Jurkovich GJ, Nathens AB, Wang J, Scharfstein DO (2008). "Prevalence of pain in patients 1 year after major trauma". Arch Surg 143 (3): 282–7; discussion 288. doi:10.1001/archsurg.2007.61. PMID 18347276.
  29. Ulvik A, Kvåle R, Wentzel-Larsen T, Flaatten H (2008). "Quality of life 2-7 years after major trauma". Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 52 (2): 195–201. doi:10.1111/j.1399-6576.2007.01533.x. PMID 18005377.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 30.4 Peitzman AB, Rhodes M, Schwab CW, Yealy DM, Fabian TC, ed. (2008). "Pediatric Trauma". The Trauma Manual (3rd ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 499–514. ISBN 0781762758.
  31. "309.81 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder". Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Washington, USA: American Psychiatric Association. 1994. pp. 424–429.
  32. Feinstein, A; Dolan, Ray (1991). "Predictors of post-traumatic stress disorder following physical trauma: an examination of the stressor criterion". Psychological Medicine (Cambridge University Press) 21 (1): 85. doi:10.1017/S0033291700014689. PMID 2047509.
  33. "Death and DALY estimates for 2004 by cause for WHO Member States" (xls). World Health Organization. 2004. Retrieved 2010-11-13.
  34. Peters S, Nicolas V, Heyer CM (2010). "Multidetector computed tomography-spectrum of blunt chest wall and lung injuries in polytraumatized patients". Clin Radiol 65 (4): 333–8. doi:10.1016/j.crad.2009.12.008. PMID 20338402.
  35. Ringdal M, Plos K, Lundberg D, Johansson L, Bergbom I (2009). "Outcome after injury: memories, health-related quality of life, anxiety, and symptoms of depression after intensive care". J Trauma 66 (4): 1226–33. doi:10.1097/TA.0b013e318181b8e3. PMID 19088550.
  36. BBC News Online (December 10, 2008). "UN raises child accidents alarm". BBC News. London: BBC. Retrieved 2010-10-31.
  37. So TY, Farrington E, Absher RK (2009). "Evaluation of the accuracy of different methods used to estimate weights in the pediatric population". Pediatrics 123 (6): e1045–51. doi:10.1542/peds.2008-1968. PMID 19482737.

Further reading

External links

Template:General injuries Template:Emergency medicine

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