Trauma is the leading cause of death for individuals up to the age of 45 years and the third leading cause of death overall for every age group. In the United States, trauma accounts for more than 180,000 deaths per year, over 3 million non-fatal injuries, and approximately 2.8 million hospital admissions.
The United States has organized statewide trauma systems to create specialized hospitals able to provide rapid and coordinated care for patients with various injuries.
Patients suffering from trauma require care with a multidisciplinary approach. Medical specialties involved may include: surgery, anesthesiology, critical care, emergency medicine, orthopedics, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, plastic surgery, urology, radiology, and blood banking. Anesthesiologists play an integral role in these multidisciplinary teams.
Trauma anesthesiologists are prepared to immediately care for patients with any form and severity of injury, who may require any kind of operation regardless of the time of day or night. Patients can be unstable due severe bleeding or extensive damage to their body and their condition can change quickly as a result of their injuries.
Trauma anesthesiologists offer a unique expertise and skill set that are significantly different from those offered by other medical specialties. With these tools, trauma anesthesiologists cut across many specialties including medicine, trauma surgery, critical care, and pain management.
Being a part of the hospital trauma team, trauma anesthesiologists care for the injured patient from his/her arrival to the hospital, to the operating room, and to the intensive care unit. However, their work often extends beyond these boundaries. The diverse knowledge and skills of trauma anesthesiologists allow them to care for patients with both medical and surgical emergencies in all areas of the hospital, even in pre-hospital settings such as in an ambulance or a flight-for-life helicopter.
These are some of the services required of trauma anesthesiologists:
- While the trauma surgeon focuses on treating the patient's injuries, the anesthesiologist is in charge of a patient’s vital life functions: breathing, blood pressure, establishing an adequate blood and oxygen supply to the heart, brain, and other organs.
- Trauma anesthesiologists administer anesthetics by putting a patient into a very deep unconscious state like a medically induced coma, and taking away the patient's pain.
- Trauma anesthesiologists provide effective airway management and resuscitation with intravenous fluids, blood transfusions and potent medications. In order to do so, they must be prepared to act quickly and creatively.
- Trauma anesthesiologists are aware of how their anesthetics affect a critical patient’s life functions such as breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate. They place intravenous lines and invasive monitors when indicated, and interpret that data along with other intraoperative diagnostic studies that help guide the patient’s resuscitation.
- Trauma anesthesiologists render comprehensive pain management before and after the surgery including intravenous, spinal and epidural anesthesia as well as peripheral nerve blocks.
- Many trauma anesthesiologists have additional specialization in critical care, and care for trauma patients in the ICU, providing ongoing life-saving care.