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What is Trauma Surgery?

By Patti Kate
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Trauma surgery typically refers to any surgical procedure that requires care for a critically or seriously injured patient due to impact impairment. In a vast majority of trauma surgery cases, causes of impact can typically include falls, vehicle collisions or accidents involving an automobile. Accidents of a violent nature such as stabbings and shootings can also have a major bearing on the need for emergency surgery.

The surgical specialty of trauma-related cases often involves invasive treatment of physical injuries to repair extensive damage. This may mean opening up or dissecting various structures within the body to explore the cause of injury and repair the damage. In cases of internal bleeding, hemorrhaging may need to be controlled through trauma surgery. If an internal organ such as the liver or heart is damaged, surgery may be the only option to save the patient's life. In some cases, removal of an organ that has been damaged, such as the spleen, may also be necessary.

Other instances may require trauma surgery, such as cases of extreme child abuse. Fractured ribs and head injuries are a common result of trauma that could require the special skills of a trauma surgeon. When trauma surgery is performed to repair fractures, an orthopedic surgeon may work together with the trauma team. When the victim is a child, trauma surgery may be performed by a pediatric trauma surgeon. This is generally because the structure of a child's body differs significantly from that of an adult's.

Head injuries from falls, abuse or impact crashes can require trauma surgery, especially if hemorrhaging of the brain is present. If a skull fracture has caused fragments of bone to pierce brain matter, there may be an urgent need for surgical repair. Fragments of materials such as glass or metal which have become embedded may need to be surgically removed. In certain cases, the skull may need to be opened to allow fluid to drain in an effort to reduce brain swelling.

Spinal cord injuries often require trauma surgery if the damage is severe. Compression of the spine may need to be alleviated through surgery, and blood clots often require invasive surgical techniques as well. Procedures such as spinal fusion may be done in conjunction with standard surgery.

Spinal fusion is a procedure that fuses bones together within the spinal column. In some cases, the bones may be fused together with the use of special surgical screws. When a trauma patient undergoes this type of surgical procedure, a follow-up course of physical therapy is generally recommended.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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