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Trauma Anesthesiology

What is trauma anesthesiology?

Trauma patients are cared for by most anesthesiologists as part of their "on call" responsibilities, yet there are only a handful of anesthesiologists (less than 50) in the United States that truly specialize in this area. When anesthesiologists are part of a trauma team they play an important role by enabling effective airway management and resuscitation, managing fluids such as blood transfusions and administering anesthetics. Anesthesiologists also manage a patient’s vital life functions during a trauma situation to allow surgeons to focus on and treat the patient’s cause of injury.

Trauma anesthesiologists must be prepared to care for any kind of patient, having any kind of operation, at any time of the day or night. Patients can be unstable due to brain injury or severe bleeding, and can change condition quickly as a result of their injuries. Trauma anesthesiologists must have a broad knowledge of the specialty and of medicine in general and must be prepared to act quickly and creatively.

What types of anesthetics are administered to a trauma patient?

Any anesthetic administered to a trauma patient must be given with caution. A safe dose given to a healthy patient could be lethal for a trauma patient. Anesthesiologists are especially needed during trauma anesthesia because they are aware of how certain anesthetics interact with a critical patient’s vital life functions, such as blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.

There are several different types of anesthetics used during a trauma situation depending upon a patient’s needs. For example, if a patient needs to be made more comfortable during a surgical or medical procedure, a sedative will be given to put the patient in a semi-conscious state. However, if a patient needs to be put in a very deep unconscious state, like a medically induced coma, an anesthetic like propofol, pentobarbital or thiopental will typically be administered. Learn more about the difference between a medically induced coma and sedation here.