Trauma surgery is a surgical specialty that utilizes both operative and non-operative management to treat traumatic injuries, typically in an acute setting. Trauma surgeons generally complete residency training in General Surgery and often fellowship training in trauma or surgical critical care. The trauma surgeon is responsible for initially resuscitating and stabilizing and later evaluating and managing the patient. The attending trauma surgeon also leads the trauma team, which typically includes nurses and support staff as well as resident physicians in teaching hospitals.
Most United States trauma surgeons practice in larger centres and complete a 1-2 year trauma surgery fellowship, which often includes a surgical critical care fellowship. They may therefore sit for the American Board of Surgery (ABS) certifying examination in Surgical Critical Care. National surgical boards usually supervise European training programs; they also certify for sub specialization in trauma surgery. An official European trauma surgical exam exists.
Training for trauma surgeons is sometimes difficult to obtain. In the US there is the Advanced Trauma Operative Management (ATOM) course and the Advanced Surgical Skills for Exposure in Trauma (ASSET) which provides operative trauma training to surgeons and surgeons in training. The Advanced Trauma Life Support course (ATLS) is a course that most US practitioners who take care of trauma patients are required to take (Emergency medicine, Surgery and Trauma attending’s, and physician extenders as well as trainees).
The broad scope of their surgical critical care training enables the trauma surgeon to address most injuries to the neck, chest, abdomen, and extremities. In large parts of Europe trauma surgeons treat most of the musculoskeletal trauma, whereas injuries to the central nervous system are generally treated by neurosurgeons. In the US and Britain skeletal injuries are treated by trauma orthopaedic surgeons. Facial injuries are often treated by maxillofacial surgeons. There is significant variation across hospitals in the degree to which other specialists, such as cardiothoracic surgeons, plastic surgeons, vascular surgeons, and interventional radiologists are involved in treating trauma patients.
Trauma surgeons must be familiar with a large variety of general surgical, thoracic, and vascular procedures and must be able to make complex decisions, often with little time and incomplete information. Proficiency in all aspects of intensive care medicine/critical care is required. Hours are irregular and there is a considerable amount of night, weekend, and holiday work. Salaries for trauma surgeons are comparable to that of general surgeons.
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