Trauma injuries require immediate expert attention
Muiris Houston: Degree of patient’s trauma must be identified as early as possible
Investigations such as CT scans should take place immediately at the first hospital. For injuries requiring specialist care, the patient should be moved to a major trauma centre. Photograph: BSIP/UIG via Getty
Traumatic injury refers to physical injuries of sudden onset and severity which require immediate medical attention. The extent of such injuries may be low, moderate or severe, and they are categorised retrospectively using an injury severity score.
As well as road-traffic accidents, a variety of situations can cause major trauma – from simple falls all the way to mass shootings and terrorist attacks.
Good trauma care involves getting the patient to the right place at the right time for the right care. It includes having the seriousness of the injury identified as early as possible, ideally at the scene of the incident.
Investigations such as CT scanning should take place immediately on arrival at the first hospital; and for injuries requiring specialist care, the patient should be moved to a major trauma centre as quickly as possible.
Achieving the best possible emergency care and maximising the injured person’s recovery requires a hub-and-spoke system with a major trauma centre as a hub, supporting regional trauma units and injury units.
This is because the major centres must see a set volume of severely injured patients to ensure staff are experienced in the delivery of high-quality care.
International experience shows how such a system can produce dramatic improvements in survival rates, and reduce the lifelong burden of injury for patients. Patients in the State are currently exposed to significant risk by being treated in hospitals that do not have the range of services or expertise to deal with their injuries.
The overall aim of a plan to reconfigure trauma care in Ireland is to produce a better outcome for an estimated 1,600 major trauma patients each year.