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What happens when a patient enters a trauma unit?

Typically trauma patients arrive at the hospital by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) units. EMS alerts the emergency department (ED) that they are inbound with a trauma patient and this initiates a cascade of events behind the scenes. An alert is sent to the on-duty trauma team, which includes a trauma surgeon, emergency physician, anesthesiologist, an intensive care nurse, two ED nurses, respiratory therapist, radiology technician and a lab/blood bank technician. This team responds to the trauma room, which is specially equipped to rapidly assess and manage surgical emergencies.

At the same time a team is responding to the trauma room, a computer tomography (CT) scanner and a CT technician are placed on hold and an operating room (OR) is placed on hold along with the staff needed for an OR case. Others such as the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), intensive care unit (ICU), nursing supervisor and administration are also made aware of the trauma patient, to assure that he or she moves rapidly through all departments and is placed in the proper nursing unit to optimize his or her care.

When entering the trauma unit, a patient is assessed using a standard protocol outlined by Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) guidelines. This protocol enables a rapid assessment for possible life-threatening conditions. The trauma patient is otherwise approached in the same manner as other patients; healthcare professionals obtain a medical history, perform a physical examination and order whatever ancillary diagnostic testing that is deemed necessary.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.