Physical trauma is a physical injury that is serious and could endanger a patient's life. Common causes of physical trauma include car accidents, burns, drowning, explosions, crush injuries, and severe beatings. Treatment for physical trauma usually needs to take place in a hospital environment and may include surgery, as well as a lengthy rehabilitation. The prognosis varies depending on the extent of the injuries, the patient's health at the time of the injury, and how quickly treatment is delivered.
There are a number of concerns with physical trauma. Immediate problems can include blood loss, brain damage, respiratory impairment, and severe pain. Patients must be quickly assessed to identify their injuries and to determine which injuries are most serious. They must also be supported if they are unstable with treatments like intravenous fluids and blood transfusions to manage blood loss, ventilation if they cannot breathe independently, and bandaging to stop or slow bleeding.
A workup for physical trauma also includes evaluations for potential complications and secondary injuries. This can include neurological screening to identify signs of injuries to the brain, as brain damage is not always readily apparent, along with medical imaging studies to search for internal bleeding, undiagnosed fractures, and other injuries that could be dangerous if they are not treated. Wounds also need to be thoroughly cleaned to remove contaminants from the scene, with the goal of reducing infection, and patients may be given prophylactic antibiotics and other drugs to prevent inflammation and infection.
Hospitals handle physical trauma in emergency rooms and trauma units. Care teams can include nurses, doctors, and a variety of medical specialists who may be consulted to address specific issues such as fractures and organ damage. Psychologists and rehabilitation professionals also commonly spend time with patients who have experience trauma to identify issues that will need to be addressed once the patient is stable and in recovery.
Health care providers who specialize in trauma care include paramedics, emergency room nurses, and trauma surgeons. These professionals need to be able to act quickly to assess and care for a patient, sometimes in chaotic and upsetting situations. Training for people interested in providing trauma care is provided in a variety of settings to get people accustomed to working in mixed environments. In addition to receiving medical training, trauma care providers also need to learn to work with law enforcement and other emergency services and they must be familiarized with protocols relevant to mass traumas, such as plans for handling terrorist attacks, building collapses, and other emergencies.