What is Trauma Anesthesia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Trauma anesthesia is a form of anesthesia focused on providing care to patients who have sustained serious physical trauma. In addition to supervising anesthesia in an operating room during surgery, someone who provides trauma anesthesia also applies airway management and pain control skills to patients when they first enter the emergency room, and participates in postoperative care while the patient recovers from surgery. People interested in providing trauma anesthesia can pursue specialized training and membership in a professional organization after qualifying as anesthesiologists.

Patients who have experienced physical trauma pose a number of risks for surgery. They are often unstable as a result of blood loss, shock from severe injuries, pain, and other factors. The patient's airway may be compromised and the patient could have injuries from the trauma that will make anesthesia more challenging, like injuries to the heart, brain, and lungs. In addition, the patient may not be conscious and able to communicate, making it difficult for the anesthesiologist to perform a screening to check for allergies and other potential risk factors that might complicate the anesthesia.


By bringing in an anesthesiologist as early as possible during patient care, outcomes can improve radically. Anesthesiologists are very skilled at airway management, and if offered an opportunity to secure the patient's airway when the patient is first admitted, it will be easier and less risky for the patient. In addition, the anesthesiologist can start delivering immediate pain relief to the patient to make the patient more comfortable, and cooperate with the team members working to evaluate and stabilize the patient to determine what kind of surgery is needed and get the patient into a condition safe for surgery.

During a trauma surgery, a specialist in trauma anesthesia will keep the patient as stable as possible while the surgeon works, alert the surgeon to emerging complications and other problems, and adjust the patient's anesthesia plan as needed to address issues as they come up during surgery. After surgery, trauma anesthesia skills are useful for monitoring patients in recovery, managing pain, and working with the patient's medical team in the event that additional surgeries and other procedures are needed.

People who work in trauma care need to be able to think and act quickly on their feet, to adjust to rapidly changing situations, and to deal with a wide variety of patients, as well as medical personnel and family members. Someone who enjoys fast paced environments, puzzles, and complex situations might be a good fit for a trauma anesthesia career.


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