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KEY POINTS

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  1. Trauma remains the most common cause of death for all individuals between the ages of 1 and 44 years and is the third most common cause of death regardless of age.

  2. The initial management of seriously injured patients consists of performing the primary survey (the “ABCs”—Airway with cervical spine protection, Breathing, and Circulation); the goals of the primary survey are to identify and treat conditions that constitute an immediate threat to life.

  3. All patients with blunt injury should be assumed to have unstable cervical spine injuries until proven otherwise; one must maintain cervical spine precautions and in-line stabilization.

  4. Patients with ongoing hemodynamic instability, whether “nonresponders” or “transient responders,” require prompt intervention; one must consider the four categories of shock that may represent the underlying pathophysiology: hemorrhagic, cardiogenic, neurogenic, and septic.

  5. Indications for immediate operative intervention for penetrating cervical injury include hemodynamic instability and significant external arterial hemorrhage; the management algorithm for hemodynamically stable patients is based on the presenting symptoms and anatomic location of injury, with the neck being divided into three distinct zones.

  6. The gold standard for determining if there is a blunt descending torn aorta injury is CT scanning; indications are primarily based on injury mechanisms.

  7. The abdomen is a diagnostic black box. However, physical examination and ultrasound can rapidly identify patients requiring emergent laparotomy. Computed tomographic (CT) scanning is the mainstay of evaluation in the remaining patients to more precisely identify the site and magnitude of injury.

  8. Manifestation of the “bloody vicious cycle” (the lethal combination of coagulopathy, hypothermia, and metabolic acidosis) is the most common indication for damage control surgery. The primary objectives of damage control laparotomy are to control bleeding and limit GI spillage.

  9. Blunt injuries to the carotid and vertebral arteries are usually managed with systemic antithrombotic therapy.

  10. The abdominal compartment syndrome may be primary (i.e., due to the injury of abdominal organs, bleeding, and packing) or secondary (i.e., due to reperfusion visceral edema, retroperitoneal edema, and ascites).

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INTRODUCTION

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Trauma, or injury, is defined as cellular disruption caused by an exchange with environmental energy that is beyond the body’s resilience which is compounded by cell death due to ischemia/reperfusion. Trauma remains the most common cause of death for all individuals between the ages of 1 and 44 years and is the third most common cause of death regardless of age.1 It is also the leading cause of years of productive life lost. Unintentional injuries account for over 110,000 deaths per year, with motor vehicle collisions accounting for over 40%. Homicides, suicides, and other causes are responsible for another 50,000 deaths each year. However, death rate underestimates the magnitude of the societal toll. For example, in 2004 there were approximately 167,000 injury-related deaths, but 29.6 million injured patients treated in emergency departments (EDs). Injury-related medical expenditures are estimated to be $117 billion each year in the United States.2 The aggregate lifetime cost for ...

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