What is trauma? In its most basic sense, trauma means injury to the body. In medicine, the term typically refers to the most severe injuries — those that threaten life and limb. Unlike most emergency room patients, trauma patients require highly specialized care, including surgery and blood transfusions. Time is a critical factor — trauma treatment — should be given within the first hour (the so-called "golden hour") following injury.
Motor vehicle crashes account for the majority of all trauma-related injuries and deaths in the United States. However, injuries due to guns and knives are also very high for teens and young adults.
Unfortunately, traumatic injuries are quite common: More than 60 million injuries occur in the United States annually — half of these require medical treatment. In the United States alone, trauma-related costs exceed $400 billion each year. That translates into more than $1,522 spent on trauma health care for every U.S. citizen, every year.
Phases of Trauma Care
Going to a Level I trauma center can be a frightening experience. You and your loved ones may not immediately know the extent of your injuries and you might encounter unfamiliar tests and treatments. Regardless, in life-threatening situations, a trauma center is the best place you can possibly be.
Understanding the following phases of trauma care can help eliminate the unknowns and make a potential visit less stressful:
Phase One: Pre-hospital care, often referred to as "the field," is the first phase of treatment. "First responders" such as emergency medical technicians, paramedics and specialized nurses, strive to stabilize the trauma patient's injuries prior to arrival at the hospital. The survival of many seriously injured patients is directly related to the quality of pre-hospital care.
Phase Two: When our emergency department's doors swing open, we immediately guide patients to a trauma resuscitation room. Advanced technology, such as a 32-slice CT scanner, helps the trauma center team to diagnose the extent of injuries and begin necessary treatments.
Phase Three: In the third phase of care, patients are transferred from the emergency room to the operating room, Intensive Care Unit or hospital floor. Here, we stabilize injuries further and continue to provide necessary treatment.
Phase Four: In the final phase, patients conclude their recovery at home or are sent to rehabilitation or convalescent centers. Once discharged, patients are given discharge instructions that outline medications and future treatments. Follow-up care may be necessary.
If You Experience or Witness Traumatic Accident or Injury
You can help save a life with a simple phone call. When you have been involved in an accident or have seen an accident that may have caused traumatic injury, call 911 immediately. Many phone calls from bystanders have saved lives. Informing pre-hospital medical professionals that an accident has occurred may be the only way an injured patient receives treatment.
It's important to call for an ambulance rather than having someone drive you, or driving a loved one or friend yourself. This is especially the case if you've been in a car accident or have taken a hard fall. Paramedics can provide immediate treatment while you are being transported. Also, many serious injuries, particularly head and neck injuries, appear minor at first. Trained pre-hospital professionals can protect your skeletal system from further injury.