What is orthopedic trauma care?
Injuries are deemed traumatic when they occur quickly and involve a level of severity requiring immediate medical attention, usually involving the injured person being rushed to a hospital. When traumatic injuries involve broken bones, dislocations and/or damage to muscles, ligaments and tendons, an orthopedic trauma surgeon is called in to treat those conditions.
Muir Orthopaedic Specialist’s (MOS’) orthopedic trauma surgeons are on call 24 hours a day at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek to offer specialized care in these emergency situations. A level II trauma center, John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek is designated as the only trauma center for Contra Costa County and portions of Solano County.
Serious falls, motor vehicle crashes, sports injuries, burns and many other situations can result in traumatic injury. More often than not, such injuries involve orthopedic issues that call for a specially trained orthopedic trauma surgeon. Treatment can include both surgical and nonsurgical means to treat the injury or injuries.
Often these situations are life threatening and require a team approach. For example, while the orthopedic trauma surgeon is working on a broken leg, a neurosurgeon might be assessing brain damage. These are critical care situations.
Orthopedic trauma patients are generally admitted to the emergency room at John Muir Medical Center, where an MOS trauma surgeon will assist with the complex orthopedic cases. This allows for rapid diagnosis and treatments giving patients the best chance for a full recovery following injury.
The system of orthopedic trauma care
A well-defined trauma care system is in place in the United States, which can begin with triage by a first responder before the patient is taken to a trauma care hospital. Trauma care facilities are certified as level I, II, III or IV, with level I being the most comprehensive with the highest volume of trauma care.
John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek is one of a few trauma centers verified as level II by the American College of Surgeons, meaning it meets high levels of trauma capability and performance. The hospital has a heliport, allowing for rapid transport of trauma patients from anywhere in the Bay Area. Getting a trauma patient to the right care as soon as possible is a major factor in successful treatment, including saving the patient’s life.
Not all orthopedic traumas are life threatening but can be life altering with lasting effects if left untreated. An orthopedic trauma patient will be treated immediately by the surgeon on call.
This care will continue with the MOS trauma surgeon throughout hospitalization, outpatient follow-up and treatment, and physical therapy. The surgeon’s goal is to follow the patient through from initial traumatic treatment to full recovery, which may involve additional surgeries or treatments.
Our orthopedic trauma surgeons undergo the same extensive training as all orthopedic surgeons but spend much more time focusing on trauma-related injuries and care. Regular ongoing study and clinical experience includes staying up to date on the latest surgical techniques during trauma incidents.
Orthopedic trauma training and ongoing education is highly focused on clinical work. To name just a few, these can include training in:
- Complex hip and pelvic surgery
- Surgical care trends in extremity fractures
- Avoiding problems in ankle fracture repair
- Techniques of thigh bone (femur) repair
- Decision making in fracture treatment
- Treatments for dislocations and fractures in the same area.
What does an orthopedic trauma surgeon do?
Orthopedic trauma referrers to the treatment of broken bones, dislocations and injuries to soft tissue such as muscles, tendons and ligaments. These can all result from one traumatic injury. One or more bones may be broken, shattered or fractured and puncture the skin – or a vital organ. The ligaments in the leg may also be torn or ruptured, and a shoulder joint may be dislocated. Most often, orthopedic trauma surgeons treat broken bones.
Our orthopedic experts care for all levels of injury, from fractures and sprains to life-threatening traumas with multiple broken bones or severe soft tissue trauma from gunshot or other causes. This can include polytrauma, where someone has multiple traumatic injuries involving several parts of the body. Polytrauma is often caused by a car accident.
Each orthopedic trauma surgeon has unique expertise and training specific to the joints, bones and soft tissue (ligaments, muscles and tendons) of the entire body. Because of this specialized training, each patient receives the best emergency and follow-up care.
The MOS orthopedic trauma surgeons provide integrated treatment by working frequently with general surgeons, neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, radiologists, CT technicians and nurses during the initial trauma care and afterward.
Trauma injuries, including orthopedic traumas, are evaluated for severity and prioritized by the trauma team using the Injury Severity Score (ISS). This involves every injury in every part of the body, with ISS scores from 1 (minor) to 6 (maximum).
Our orthopedic surgeons use advanced techniques to care for each injury and give patients the highest chance of returning to maximum function of the injured area of the body. This is most beneficial in cases of extremely difficult injuries, such as those with multiple broken bones, fractures near a joint, compound fractures and fractures of the pelvis.
Being treated by an orthopedic surgeon will also reduce the chances of problems that are associated with healing such as osteomyelitis (bone or bone marrow infections or inflammation), malunion (poor alignment) and nonunion (a delay in the bone healing due to lack of stability and/or blood flow).
Following an emergency our physician will continue with follow-up care and, if needed, recommendations for a physical therapist.
Types of orthopedic trauma care performed by MOS surgeons
If surgery is called for, minimally invasive surgeries are utilized when possible, which can reduce recovery time and post-surgery infections. Some of the common orthopedic trauma injuries follow.
Broken bones and fractures including:
- Tibia (inner leg bone between knee and ankle)
- Femur (thigh bone)
- Humerus (upper arm)
- Multiple extremities (hand, feet, ankles, elbows).
Revision fracture surgery for complications from trauma including:
Other surgical and orthopedic issues such as::
- Dislocation of a joint
- Fractures due to osteoporosis
- Minimally invasive bone grafting
- Soft tissue reconstruction
- Upper extremity reconstruction.