Critical Care After Trauma

Essential care during your most critical time of need

Critical care after traumatic injury includes postoperative care, respiratory care, 24-hour monitoring and pain management during your healing process. Serious injuries require a multidisciplinary critical care team—including emergency medicine physicians, neurosurgeons, neurologists, cardiovascular surgeons, radiologists, orthopedic surgeons, plastic surgeons and more—all working together to efficiently and effectively treat your injuries.

Overview

Critical care after traumatic injury includes postoperative care, respiratory care, 24-hour monitoring and pain management during your healing process. Serious injuries require a multidisciplinary critical care team—including emergency medicine physicians, neurosurgeons, neurologists, cardiovascular surgeons, radiologists, orthopedic surgeons, plastic surgeons and more—all working together to efficiently and effectively treat your injuries.

Types of Critical Care You May Receive

Depending on your injuries and medical needs, critical care after trauma may include:

Blood transfusions

Traumatic injuries can cause you to lose a lot of blood, which lowers your blood pressure to dangerous levels and keeps oxygen from reaching all parts of your body, including your brain. Blood transfusions help return your blood pressure and the amount of blood in your body to normal levels, lowering your risk for further injuries, including brain damage or death.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)

Many traumatic injuries affect your heart and lung function, keeping your body from getting the oxygen it needs. ECMO is a machine that performs your heart and lung functions until your body is properly healed. It works by pumping blood out of your body and into the machine, then then adding oxygen to the blood while carbon dioxide is removed. Your blood is then pumped back into your body so can deliver oxygen to your cells.

Neurocritical intensive care

When a traumatic brain injury happens, neurocritical care physicians, neurologists and neurosurgeons provide specialized care to help reduce the effects of brain damage. Continuous electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring and intracranial pressure monitoring are used to measure your brain’s electrical activity and the pressure around your brain. This monitoring shows signs of brain damage or conditions that could cause further damage so your care team can act to provide immediate treatment when necessary.

Pain management

Traumatic injuries cause long-lasting pain that requires high levels of pain management, such as intravenous (IV) narcotics or opioids. In some cases, a temporary, medically induced coma may be used to control pain levels if they become too high to tolerate. The number one goal of pain management is to relieve your pain with the correct dosage of medicine and the fewest possible side effects.

Parenteral nutrition

Some injuries may affect your ability to eat or digest food normally. In addition, having a tube placed for respiratory support makes it impossible to swallow food. Parenteral nutrition delivers all the nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and fats your body needs to function directly through an intravenous drip (IV).

Rehabilitation services

Your recovery from a traumatic injury may require physical therapy, speech therapy or occupational therapy, depending on your injuries. Rehabilitation can begin while you are still in critical care, with therapists coming directly to your beside to get you on the road to recovery and help speed up your healing process.

Respiratory support

If your lungs cannot function on their own, you will be placed on a ventilator. A ventilator breathes for you by pumping air directly into your lungs. This may be done through a tracheostomy (incision in the front of your neck to place a tube directly into your airway) or endotracheal tube (a tube run through your nose and mouth down into your airway).

What to Expect

Types of Critical Care You May Receive

Depending on your injuries and medical needs, critical care after trauma may include:

Blood transfusions

Traumatic injuries can cause you to lose a lot of blood, which lowers your blood pressure to dangerous levels and keeps oxygen from reaching all parts of your body, including your brain. Blood transfusions help return your blood pressure and the amount of blood in your body to normal levels, lowering your risk for further injuries, including brain damage or death.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)

Many traumatic injuries affect your heart and lung function, keeping your body from getting the oxygen it needs. ECMO is a machine that performs your heart and lung functions until your body is properly healed. It works by pumping blood out of your body and into the machine, then then adding oxygen to the blood while carbon dioxide is removed. Your blood is then pumped back into your body so can deliver oxygen to your cells.

Neurocritical intensive care

When a traumatic brain injury happens, neurocritical care physicians, neurologists and neurosurgeons provide specialized care to help reduce the effects of brain damage. Continuous electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring and intracranial pressure monitoring are used to measure your brain’s electrical activity and the pressure around your brain. This monitoring shows signs of brain damage or conditions that could cause further damage so your care team can act to provide immediate treatment when necessary.

Pain management

Traumatic injuries cause long-lasting pain that requires high levels of pain management, such as intravenous (IV) narcotics or opioids. In some cases, a temporary, medically induced coma may be used to control pain levels if they become too high to tolerate. The number one goal of pain management is to relieve your pain with the correct dosage of medicine and the fewest possible side effects.

Parenteral nutrition

Some injuries may affect your ability to eat or digest food normally. In addition, having a tube placed for respiratory support makes it impossible to swallow food. Parenteral nutrition delivers all the nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and fats your body needs to function directly through an intravenous drip (IV).

Rehabilitation services

Your recovery from a traumatic injury may require physical therapy, speech therapy or occupational therapy, depending on your injuries. Rehabilitation can begin while you are still in critical care, with therapists coming directly to your beside to get you on the road to recovery and help speed up your healing process.

Respiratory support

If your lungs cannot function on their own, you will be placed on a ventilator. A ventilator breathes for you by pumping air directly into your lungs. This may be done through a tracheostomy (incision in the front of your neck to place a tube directly into your airway) or endotracheal tube (a tube run through your nose and mouth down into your airway).

Long-Term Critical Care Support

If you need long-term respiratory support, you will most likely have a tracheostomy. If you only need short-term respiratory support, or if you cannot undergo a tracheostomy for some reason, you will have an endotracheal tube.

After Your Procedure

Long-Term Critical Care Support

If you need long-term respiratory support, you will most likely have a tracheostomy. If you only need short-term respiratory support, or if you cannot undergo a tracheostomy for some reason, you will have an endotracheal tube.

Patient Stories for Critical Care After Trauma