Do you know what polytrauma is? Maybe you’ve heard of it, or come across this word in some news, or a case that happened in the family, especially when it comes to accidents and falls. These injuries are common in these situations and can generate several health impacts on the body and even the quality of life of the patient who suffers from it. Orthopedic doctor Daniel Oliveira spoke to us about this problem, the types of polytrauma and how to treat it. Check out!
What is polytrauma?
“Polytrauma is a medical condition in which a person suffers multiple injuries to different parts of the body as a result of an accident or traumatic event, such as a car accident, fall from a height or some type of serious impact”, says Daniel. As the orthopedist explains, polytrauma can include bone fractures, injuries to the head, chest and abdomen, as well as other organs in the body. “They vary in severity and can be potentially fatal, requiring immediate medical attention and specific care to evaluate, treat and stabilize the patient.”
It is also necessary to understand that polytrauma does not mean trauma. “While isolated trauma involves a single injury or injury to a specific area of the body, polytrauma involves injuries to multiple parts of the body at the same time. This ends up generating a more complex health situation and often represents a greater risk to life, requiring care from a multidisciplinary medical team, including surgeons, intensivists, radiologists and other specialists, to address all injuries appropriately”, he explains. Daniel.
What are the types of polytrauma?
Daniel explains that, in general, polytrauma can be classified into 3 types, following the severity criterion, but this is not exactly a consensus. “There are several classifications and scoring systems that healthcare professionals use to assess the severity of polytrauma,” says the orthopedist.
In type I injuries, those that do not pose a threat to life are considered. “We can include small fractures, superficial lacerations, bruises and abrasions. Most of the patient’s required functions are preserved and stable and generally do not require emergency surgery and can be treated on an outpatient basis or in an emergency department.”
In type II, as the orthopedist explains, the injuries are more serious, but not necessarily fatal. “Examples include: more extensive bone fractures, injuries to internal organs that do not immediately threaten life and moderate injuries to the head and chest. The patient’s functions may be affected, but can usually be stabilized with appropriate treatment. And there may be a need for surgery, but that doesn’t mean it’s an emergency.
Type III injuries are those that are extremely serious and potentially fatal. “This includes life-threatening head and chest injuries, extensive injuries to internal organs, large multiple fractures, severe polytrauma of the spine and injuries to multiple body systems,” comments Daniel. “The patient’s assigned functions are at risk and immediate medical intervention is required, such as emergency surgery and intensive care. The risk of long-term complications is high.”
Regarding the severity and type of injury, Daniel explains that it is necessary to evaluate many variables. “The severity of polytrauma can vary considerably between patients, depending on the nature of the accident, the patient’s age and previous health status, among other factors. Treatment is highly personalized and will depend on the specific injuries.”
Common causes of polytrauma
But, after all, how does someone acquire polytrauma? Is this a common event? According to the orthopedist, this condition can be caused by any traumatic event that the body suffers. “Polytrauma can be caused by a variety of traumatic events, the main causes being vehicle collisions, such as car, motorcycle, bicycle accidents and being run over; falling from a significant height, such as stairs, buildings or elevated surfaces, which can result in serious injuries to various parts of the body”, says Daniel.
And it’s not just in accidents and collisions that polytrauma is a risk: everyday situations can also make it possible. “Sports trauma caused by high-risk sports, such as extreme sports, martial arts or contact sports; occupational injuries caused by accidents in dangerous work environments, such as construction and mining, or due to assaults or injuries from firearms”, he explains.
What can polytrauma impact on the various body systems?
According to Daniel, some areas of the body are more prone to this type of injury. “Some of the most commonly affected areas in cases of polytrauma include head trauma, skull fractures and neck injuries. They are more common in traffic accidents, falls and assaults, due to exposure of the head to impacts. The chest, which can be affected by rib fractures, lung injuries and the heart, resulting in high-speed collisions or sudden chest injuries, such as in car accidents”, he commented.
Other members may suffer even more serious issues. “Abdominal trauma, which can involve injuries to internal organs, such as the liver, spleen, kidneys and intestines, generally due to direct impacts on the abdominal region, such as in motorcycle accidents or falls”, explains the orthopedist. “In limbs, such as arms and legs, which can suffer joint dislocations and soft tissue injuries due to falls, collisions or crushes. Pelvis and pelvis, due to traffic accidents, falls and sports injuries, causing complex fractures and injuries to nearby organs, such as the bladder”.
In addition, there may also be polytrauma in limbs that affect the nervous system. “the spine, which can experience particularly severe trauma and result in spinal cord injuries, causing paralysis or significant neurological damage. They are common to occur in diving accidents, falls from heights and collisions.”
Immediate treatment of polytrauma: what to do in an emergency if it is suspected?
At first, the ideal thing to do before any suspicion is to call emergency services. 192 is the SAMU number, who can provide the first service. Often, making moves can make the situation worse, so the ideal is to provide assistance on site. After that, the professional will check some basic signs. “It is important to check that the airway is clear. If a victim is not breathing or has difficulty breathing, it may be necessary to open the airway and, in some cases, involve inserting an endotracheal tube or providing artificial ventilation. Blood circulation is also assessed”, explains Daniel Oliveira.
Soon after, the doctor evaluates neurological functions and checks for fractures, wounds, burns, among others. “After this assessment, it is crucial to quickly transport the victim to an appropriate trauma medical center or hospital. Transport must be carried out with the utmost care to avoid unnecessary movements that could aggravate injuries”, says the orthopedist.
The doctor also highlights the need to listen to the patient whenever possible and the alignment of the rescue team. “Throughout the entire process, it is important to maintain effective communication with the medical team and, if possible, the victim, to obtain information about allergies, medical history and other details that may influence treatment and to record all relevant information, including signs specifics, injuries observed, treatments administered and any change in the victim’s condition”.
How does polytrauma rehabilitation work?
Another important tool in the treatment of polytrauma in the medium and long term is rehabilitation. “Rehabilitation is a fundamental part of treating patients with polytrauma, especially for those who have survived severe and multiple injuries. It aims to help patients recover as much functionality as possible, minimize disabilities and improve their quality of life after trauma”, explains Daniel. “To this end, an initial assessment is necessary to then develop a personalized rehabilitation plan with goals and specific professionals, according to the patient’s needs”, he concludes.
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