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Test Taking Tips

  • Historically, there is always a question that tests your priorities in caring for the trauma patient. Do not get sidetracked! It is always primary survey with airway, breathing, and circulation.

  • Know how to calculate the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score.

  • Be familiar with new ATLS updates, such as amount of crystalloid in initial resuscitation.


When does the first mortality peak for trauma occur?

  • Within seconds to minutes after injury

The trauma system and acute patient care have the greatest impact on patients in which mortality peak for trauma?

  • Second mortality peak (golden hour)

What do most of the deaths during the second mortality peak for trauma occur from?

  • Hemorrhage, central nervous system injuries

When does the third mortality peak for trauma occur?

  • 24 hours after injury, from multisystem organ failure and sepsis

How long should the primary survey in the initial evaluation of a trauma patient take?

  • No more than 5 minutes unless an intervention is needed.

What mnemonic is used to conduct the primary survey?

  • ABCDE: Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Exposure

What are the goals during airway assessment?

  • Secure the airway, protect the spinal cord

What is required for spinal immobilization?

  • A rigid cervical collar, use of a full backboard

Contraindications to nasotracheal intubation:

  • Apnea, maxillofacial fracture

What is the quickest way to test for an adequate airway in an awake, alert patient?

  • Ask a question; if the patient is able to speak, the airway is intact

Indications for a surgical airway:

  • Anatomic distortion as a result of neck injury, massive maxillofacial trauma, inability to visualize the vocal cords (blood, secretions, airway edema)

What are the goals during the breathing assessment?

  • Secure oxygenation and ventilation; treat life-threatening thoracic injuries

What should be done on physical examination to adequately assess breathing?

  • Inspection (air movement, cyanosis, tracheal shift, JVD, respiratory rate, asymmetric chest expansion, open chest wounds, use of accessory muscles of respiration)

  • Auscultation/percussion (hyperresonance or dullness over lung fields)

  • Palpation (flail segments, subcutaneous emphysema)

What life-threatening conditions must be treated during the breathing assessment if encountered?

  • Open pneumothorax, tension pneumothorax, massive hemothorax

What is the most common cause of upper airway obstruction?

  • The tongue

What is the ...

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