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Learning About Multiple Trauma

ICU equipment including ventilator, heart monitor, and medicine pump with IV, attached to patient

What is multiple trauma?

Multiple trauma means having several serious injuries from something like a fall, an attack, or a crash. The injuries could cause severe bleeding or break large bones. They might include damage to the brain or to organs such as the lungs or spleen. This type of trauma can also happen during war, when people are exposed to explosions or other violent events.

Trauma can cause brain injuries, breathing problems, organ failure, blood loss, infection, permanent disability, or loss of limbs. That's why many people with these injuries will go to an intensive care unit (ICU). An ICU is a part of the hospital where very sick people get care. ICU staff can treat, monitor, and manage severe injuries. Some ICUs specialize in trauma.

What can you expect when a person is in the ICU?

You will stay in close contact with staff in the ICU. With multiple trauma injuries, doctors and nurses specializing in different parts of the body will help.

You'll often come to the ICU and find different people working there. This is normal. Nurses and doctors go on and off duty with shift changes. Doctors and specialists may change as they care for other people in the ICU. They get updated on each person's condition when they come on shift.

Don't be too alarmed by how patients look or act in the ICU. Severe trauma can cause bruising and swelling. It can affect thinking and speaking. People may be hooked up to machines and get pain medicines from a medicine pump.

  • While in the trauma ICU, people may need more X-rays, lab tests, or procedures.
  • They might need more surgeries to fix broken bones or an organ like the liver.
  • They may need a blood transfusion to replace lost blood.
  • For a brain injury, doctors may need to release or monitor pressure in the brain.
  • People may need support for organs, including breathing with a ventilator. They may need heart and blood vessel support with fluids and medicines.

Know that the hospital staff is well prepared to care for patients in the ICU. They will do everything they can to help. If patients need it, they can ask for support from friends and family. They can also ask the hospital staff about counselling and support.

What are the long-term effects of traumatic injury?

With severe trauma, life could change dramatically. Some people recover completely. Others will have long-term health problems.

  • With a traumatic brain injury, symptoms might last for a long time. It may be hard for the person to think clearly or remember new information. The person may have trouble with headaches, vision, or dizziness. There might also be emotional changes.
  • If the person has lost limbs, or the use of limbs, they may have to learn to move and to do daily tasks in new ways.
  • The person may start new treatments while still in the hospital. Specialists may help with different injuries. Expect a long recovery after the person leaves the ICU.
    • The person may need physiotherapy to strengthen the body.
    • They may also need emotional therapy or counselling to learn to deal with the injuries. This can also help with stress and depression.

There's a lot going on in the ICU. It can be scary and confusing for patients and their families, friends, and supporters. But it's designed to keep your loved one comfortable and safe and to provide the best medical care.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.