Trauma is a serious injury or
to the body. It is caused by a physical force, such as violence or an accident. The injury may be complicated by psychiatric, behavioral, and social factors. This can cause the disability to be greater than just physical injuries. This condition almost always requires care from healthcare professionals.
Brain Trauma from Whiplash
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Some causes of trauma include: Motor vehicle accidentsFallsDrowningGunshotsFires and burnsStabbingOther physical assaultFire, flood, earthquake, or other natural disasterOther shocking experience
Some factors increase your chances of developing trauma. You are at increased risk if you are aged 1-44 years.
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, do not assume it is caused by trauma. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. The symptoms associated with trauma vary and depend on the type of injuries you have suffered. If you experience any of them, see your doctor. Multiple injuriesAirway obstructionBreathing problemsBleedingHeart failureLung failureVital organ damageCentral nervous system injurySepsisMultiple organ failure
In addition, the following psychological effects may occur in response to trauma: Anxiety, numbness, dissociation and/or inappropriate calmnessAnger and frustrationAcute stress disorder (ie, distress, memories, avoidance, and numbing in the months after trauma)DepressionPost-traumatic symptoms and/or disorderAvoidance and public anxiety
A medical team will assess your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include the following: Blood pressure measurementVentilatory monitoring—breathing tests to determine whether breathing needs to be assisted by a ventilator or supplemental oxygenElectrocardiogram
—to monitor heart rate
Chest examAbdomen and pelvis examExam of the extremitiesNeurologic examChest radiograph—to view the organs and structures within the testAbdominal ultrasound
—to view the organs and structures within the abdomen
—to view the organs and structures within the abdomen, pelvis, chest, and/or head
Spine x-ray—to determine if there is damage to the spineAngiography
—to identify arterial bleeding
Other tests, depending on the nature of the injuriesAssessment for psychological symptoms
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Treatment usually includes the following: Resuscitation and/or stabilization—normalize vital signs, control blood loss, and restore organ function will be restored firstFurther surgeries and/or treatments—may need further surgeries and treatmentsCognitive-behavioral therapy
—to address ongoing psychological symptoms from the trauma
To help reduce your chances of trauma, the CDC and the National Safety Council recommend that you take the following steps: Always use seat belts.Never drive or operate any equipment while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Certain medicines can be dangerous as well.Do not use a cell phone while driving.Keep poisons, medicine, and cleaning supplies locked up. Keep them away from small children.Teach children to swim. Teach all family members about water safety.Develop a fire safety plan.Make sure all alarm and fire equipment is up to date (eg, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and fire extinguishers).If you have firearms in the house, make sure they are kept unloaded. Keep them in a locked location.Wear helmets while biking.Wear the right safety equipment for all sports and recreation activities.Wear appropriate protective gear when using power tools.Help prevent falls in the home. Install night lights, grab bars, and hand rails.Avoid putting yourself at risk for an accident, violence, or other physical trauma.
Behrman RE, et al.
Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics
. 18th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2007.
Goldman L, Ausiello D., eds.
Cecil Textbook of Internal Medicine
. 23rd ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2008.
Marx, John A., et al.
Rosen's Emergency Medicine
. 7th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby, Inc., 2009.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Peter Lucas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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